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‘Night Out’ unifies community

Broken Bread Ministries National
Night Out coordinator Wendy Dennis
(left) and Broken Bread Ministries
Pastor Geneva Alston.
A Highland Springs church is trying to spearhead efforts to fight violence and crime within the community. Those efforts were on display Aug. 7, when about 75 residents of Highland Springs gathered at Broken Bread Ministries church for the neighborhood’s fourth National Night Out, presenting a unified front.

Broken Bread Ministries is a small church with an enormous heart, led by Pastor Geneva Alston, who has been with the church and lived in Highland Springs since 1995. Her hope is that NNO will spread knowledge to the community that there are resources available for families in need in order to combat violence and better themselves.

Vendors, live music, food, games, mustang clubs, local law enforcement agencies and citizens of Highland Springs were all part of the effort to show support for community involvement and awareness.

“I have been involved with the NNO for four years,” said Alston. “This is our community, we’ve bought our homes, established ministries and churches and schools and we want people to be comfortable living at home and not worrying about who’s going to kick their door open or stick them up. I just want to spread wisdom and correct some of the things in our neighborhoods.”

National Night Out crime and drug prevention events have been taking place for the last 29 years sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. Citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials gather to participate in events all across the country.

The neighborhood scout database lists Highland Springs at a 15 crime index, meaning that the area is only safer than 15 percent of the cities in the United States. There is a 69 percent chance of a violent crime taking place in Highland Springs. Nearby Sandston has a crime index of 61, while Glen Allen has a crime index of 45.

Index crimes are determined by eight crimes the FBI combines to produce its annual crime index and the offenses include willful homicide, forcible rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny over $50, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Pockets of Highland Springs have had lingering crime problems. The community includes some subsidized housing units and lower-income areas. Citizens in Highland Springs have been trying to get other nearby neighborhoods and apartment complexes involved in their efforts to subdue crime but have run into roadblocks.

“The only difficulty is some of the apartment complexes won’t allow you to come in and pass out your fliers and they’re the ones that need it the most,” said Alston.

Wendy Dennis, NNO coordinator for Broken Bread Ministries believes the event’s focus should not be only on handling violence but also on putting the entire person back together. That is one of the reasons she invites a wide variety of companies to the table.

“Some of the other churches and other businesses and apartment complexes focus on just the violence but violence is the result of so many other social issues,” said Dennis. “We’re trying to put services together here to bring the family together and branch out and not focus on one specific need. We want to prevent things from happening because it’s a trickle effect. Schools, businesses and families should know that they can come here. Although we are a church, we’re people first, and this can be a safe haven.”

NNO is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support and participation in local anticrime programs, strengthen neighborhood and police-community partnerships and most importantly send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are fighting back. There is currently no Neighborhood
Watch program set up in the Highland Springs area.

Henrico Fire Chief Edwin Smith was at the NNO event along with other local law enforcement representatives.

“We live in this community too; eat here, sleep here and answer the residents’ calls,” said Smith. “So why not be a part of it, because we are just as much invested in this community as everyone else. This gives us an opportunity to talk to people under calm conditions and I like for my firefighters to get out and show support.”

Broken Bread Ministries officials believe that through NNO, the total community is becoming more aware of the issues in the neighborhoods and the resources available to stop them.

The program has proven to be effective as well as inexpensive and members of the Highland Springs community hope that it will promote a safer neighborhood and community involvement that extends beyond the one night.
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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