By: Mary Beth Bacallao
This year I helped out with organizing the activities for the National Night Out event at Chestnut Street Park. Anna Johnson and Deb Penrod joined me in coming up with activities that would draw residents to the park on a Tuesday night in August. It proved to be a typical August evening, hot and humid, and lots of sun. We planned a “Unity in the Community” walk, a first this year, to promote the town watch and safe streets aspects of the National Night Out organization. A big crowd walked the core
neighborhood in solidarity against crime, violence and drug trafficking.
The Pottstown Police joined us and were a positive presence throughout the night, as were Empire Fire Company and McGruff (or is it McHuff?) the Crime Dog. Organizations including the YWCA, CPR, and the Montgomery County Office for Aging joined the festivities and offered information to residents. Rita’s Water Ice came through for us, and Judy and Greg Zahora grilled donated hot dogs to perfection. The mural being painted at the park got helping hands from some local children-be sure to stop by and take a look at the progress! It will be a masterpiece when it’s finished. Very exciting!
A couple of weeks prior to the event,our local radio station, WPAZ 1370 AM, was kind enough to interview Anna and me to discuss the NNO event, as well as MOSAIC Community Land Trust, which was the organization I represented in the NNO activities. It was really gratifying to have such support from WPAZ,and they came through again the night of August 2nd when they sent DJ JD (yes, he is a human palindrome!) to cover our NNO event. He sent live interviews and commentary back to the station from the park, and station manager Ross Landy played unity-themed music throughout the event. It is the people of Pottstown at all levels in the community, coming together, that makes volunteering so gratifying. Most everyone I spoke to about National Night Out was more than willing to promote and advertise the event, to lend their support to us and jump in and help out that night.
I have had a lot of positive interactions with my fellow residents in Pottstown by being a part of events like NNO. I have deep respect for those who put their time and energy into making Pottstown a safe and welcoming place to live. There have been days, too, when all I wanted to do was go to work, come home, walk my dog and shut my door. It’s not easy to stay positive and upbeat when crime, blight, and socioeconomic struggles are on the forefront of newspaper headlines and are the topic of most conversations at home and with acquaintances. But Tuesday night, I was reminded why events like NNO meant a lot and really do have an impact. We came together as a community and shared a night of fun in a safe and caring environment, and we can all build on that.
Mary Beth Bacallao is currenty running for the Pottstown School Board as a Democrat, and lives near Rupert Elementary. She studied English and Journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and works at Siemens in Malvern, PA.