‘Night Out’ unifies community
By Eileen Mellon, Special to the Citizen 08/20/12
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.
More than 300 participants took the plunge for charity Feb. 25 at The Shops at Willow Lawn, raising $40,000 for the Special Olympics of Virginia as part of the 2017 RVA Polar Plunge Fest. Participants jumped into frigid water as part of the event, having raised money through donations leading up to the event.
“At Special Olympics Virginia, our vision is to inspire the first unified generation; a generation of people who respectfully include each other in the school, in the workplace, in the community,” said Rick Jeffrey, Special Olympics Virginia President. “Plunging this past Saturday included people with intellectual disabilities and those without; people of all ages, genders, races and religions; students and teachers; doctors and lawyers; military and law enforcement; one for all; all for one." > Read more.
CancerLINC's 11th annual "It’s in the Bag" event raised more than $50,000. The event, presented by Virginia Cancer Institute, was held at The Westin Richmond in Henrico Feb. 2 and was attended by more than 200 people.
“It's in the Bag” included handbag designer Thaddeus DuBois and his family from Syracuse, Ind. DuBois brought four handcrafted handbags, which were auctioned off and raised more than $4,000. Three autographed handbags from “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker also brought funds. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 02/28/2017 Features
Above, Varina’s Andre Watkins drives to the basket during the Blue Devils’ 52-51 win against Hampton in the Group 5A third-place game at Hermitage High School Feb. 25. Below, Tyrese Jenkins drives to the basket during the game. The Blue Devils (21-6 on the season), who earlier last month defeated Hermitage, 53-34, to earn a spot in the 5A state tournament, next will face Albemarle in that tournament. It is the program’s first trip to the state tournament since 2001 and first under fourth-year coach Andrew Lacey, who has turned around a team that was 6-14 during his first season. > Read more.
For the past two months, they showed up every day at the state Capitol, dressed in matching blazers and carrying pen and paper at the ready – the next generation of public servants carefully observing their superiors.
These young adults are known as pages. They are middle school and high school students from around Virginia who assist in everyday tasks at the General Assembly to experience firsthand how the legislative process works.
The program dates as far back as 1850, when the one page who worked was paid $2 a day. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 02/27/2017 Features
The Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) is seeking to raise $100,000 in 30 days to cover due diligence and closing costs associated with the historic Malvern Hill Farm. These include boundary survey, Phase I ESA, title search and insurance, recording fees, taxes, and legal work as well as a Section 106 review.
CRLC is scheduled to close on the purchase of the property May 31, and is asking community members to help support the site's acquisition. All donations will help CRLC leverage $1 million in matching funds. > Read more.
St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.
Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.
Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.
Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Given the warm weather lately, Saturday’s RVA Polar Plunge Winter Fest, benefiting Special Olympics Virginia, might actually be enjoyable! Other weekend events you’re sure to enjoy include the 14th annual Richmond Kids Expo at the Richmond Raceway Complex, the Richmond Symphony and The Taters in concert at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and the Richmond Ballet Minds in Motion Team XXL performing at the Henrico Theatre. This is also the last weekend to check out HATTheatre’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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