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Night Out Unifies Community
Seven different gatherings were staged in all corners of the community on National Night Out, celebrated in Escalon and across the country on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

For Escalon, the contingent of police, fire, emergency services and city personnel was the largest ever, the caravan of vehicles moving from spot to spot with lights and sirens.

Jill Mansfield and Lindsay Runnels were organizers of an event at Silverwood and Narcissus in one of the newer areas of town. They hosted one last year, getting in at the last minute, and this year were the first group to welcome the Night Out contingent.

"We're having a dessert social at the park," Mansfield said, her two young children in tow as they greeted the wave of personnel. "Well, actually it's more like a grassy knoll than a park but it works."

From there, the caravan made its way to six other stops in the community, spending a little time at each to grab a quick bite to eat and make that connection with residents.

Jackie Sappenfield, Glenda Machado and Kathy Wright were hostesses for the potluck barbecue on Chianti Court while Phyllis Larson and Charlie Dodge coordinated the neighborhood gathering on Chablis.

"I did the very first one 11 years ago, then the Greers did it for a while," explained Larson.

"It's a nice opportunity to meet the neighbors," added Dodge, "and we do have some new ones."

The goals of National Night Out, in fact, are to get people out of their homes and into the night air, meeting and greeting neighbors and the personnel that help make the community a safe and secure place to live.

Mike and Rebecca James attended the Chablis gathering with son Hunter, 3, who enjoyed getting the various giveaway items from police and firefighters, including a mini finger flashlight.

"As soon as we walked out of the house, he had a great big smile," Mike James said of his son's reaction to the arrival of the emergency vehicles.

Denise and Kerry Schulz hosted a potluck on Jonathon Court and, like all host families, were recognized with a certificate of appreciation presented by Mayor Walt Murken.

"We know it's a lot of work," Murken said in presenting the certificate. "We appreciate the effort."

The city contingent included not only the emergency services personnel but also council members and some Public Works and City Hall employees as well.

"This is a real good turnout," councilman Ed Alves noted. "That's what makes Escalon what it is."

Kim Churchill and son Joshua, 5, took time for the fire truck tour when the caravan stopped in their court.

"This is great for the kids, they get so excited with the fire trucks and ambulance," Churchill said. "This is our third year coming."

On Mission Street, organizers Gilbert and Pia Varekamp, Scott and Judy Orr were thanked for their efforts and that group again was among the largest, all neighbors joining in.

"That's the way this neighborhood is, we all look out for each other," said resident Steve Cestaro.

Trinity Church used its usual Tuesday night youth group meeting to welcome community residents in for the National Night Out, offering food, music, games and fun. Senor Pastor Jim Davis and Arney Corbin pulled the festivities together.

"We put on a barbecue, we supplied all the food, it just helps us to get to know our neighbors," said Davis. "The fellowship is great."

Final stop of the night for the group was Saron Lutheran Church, where Rev. Victor Berg-Haglund and the education and youth committee and fellowship circle coordinated the event. It featured a wide variety of food, barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers, music by Gene Bartolomei on the accordion and even a spirited 'Chicken Dance' to cap off the fun.

"We look forward to it each year," said Berg-Haglund of hosting the community event.

Interim City Manager Henry Hesling said National Night Out is great tool for the community.

"I think it at least opens up a dialogue," he said. "In today's tough economic times, it's important to be out networking with the community."

Interim Police Chief Jim Shaw praised the work of police services manager Dorothy Vandagriff in coordinating the schedule and stops for the Night Out festivities and said he was pleased to see such a high level of participation from the community.

"I think it was a great community effort," he said, adding that it was a good way for him to get familiar with and introduced to more residents in the city.

Vandagriff was similarly pleased.

"We're always very happy," she said. "We always get good participation."