Night Out brings SV neighborhood together

DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Officer Dalton Bellock shows some of the equipment he carries to a crowd gathered under the canopy in the driveway of the townhome of Marge Lenz during National Night Out last Tuesday.
David Phillips

Residents of one Spring Valley neighborhood got together to enjoy a meal, each other’s company, conversation and even some education on a calm, sunny evening Tuesday, Aug. 6.

The residents of the North Park Drive and North Park Court area in northern Spring Valley got together last week to participate in their first National Night Out event. By stepping out of their homes, the residents were able to create a tighter sense of community in the neighborhood of townhomes located southwest of the Spring Valley Living complex.

The neighbors had planned a get-together in 2018, but predictions of severe weather shut that one down, according to Marge Lenz whose garage was the focal point of the gathering last week. She helped organize the event, although she emphasized it was a neighborhood effort with many people pitching in.

Lenz, who lived in Ostrander until she and her late husband moved to Spring Valley a few years ago, still belongs to the Ostrander Lions. The Lions had community picnics in August until the event was combined with National Night Out in Ostrander.

After moving, she noticed there was nothing similar in Spring Valley so she made an effort to start one in her neighborhood. She said she felt that not everyone knew all of their neighbors and she wanted everyone to become familiar with each other so they would know they could call on one another.

“We need to know each other and get along – respect each other,” she said.

The event was a success as a crowd of people gathered under canopies set up in her driveway adjacent to the garage that had tables full of food.

“I was pleased and the people that came were very pleased,” Lenz said.

Even the preparations leading up to the event were a neighborhood affair.

Mary Ann Schultz, who has a large family, was able to get some canopies for the driveway. She also made a sign to announce the National Night Out gathering.

Joyce Meyer, who lost her son, Jason, a police officer killed on duty 20 years ago, contacted Sheriff John DeGeorge. The sheriff had a deputy, Dalton Bellock, stop by to answer questions ranging from what steps can be taken to control traffic on the neighborhood streets to how the new deputy liked working in Spring Valley.

The Ostrander Lions provided school packets for children. Although the neighborhood is mostly elderly residents, many have grandchildren stop by their homes, noted Lenz, and about a dozen people took them home. The packets had items such as lined notebooks, rulers, pencils and pens.

Fillmore County Social Services also provided some information on emergency situations, such as what to do if an ambulance is needed.

The highlight was the meal as there were two grills fired up for the meat residents brought to cook. Everyone also contributed a dish for the neighborhood feed.

“Everything came together. It was a community effort on our little block,” Lenz said. “It wasn’t much work for me to put the garage door up and have everyone come over.”

A former neighbor, Delores Erickson, who lives at the nearby Spring Valley Care Center, joined the fun as one of the residents provided taxi service to and from the event in his golf cart.

National Night Out is a national community-building campaign on the first Tuesday of August that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie with the goal to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. More than 200 cities in Minnesota participate in the event, which was started in 1984, but has grown significantly in recent years.

The North Park neighborhood residents enjoyed it so much they decided to do it again next year.

“It was just a really nice evening together,” Lenz said. “We need to know each other. We need to get together and have fun together.”