Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A (National) Night Out on the Town

Photos by Evan Brandt
Kelise Smith, 16, and Pottstown High School classmate Deandre Sanders, 16, visit with mascots-in-training Trojan Men Aaron Diamond and John Oister during National Night Out celebrations in the park at Washington and Chestnut streets in Pottstown.

There were fewer National Night Out celebrations in Pottstown than there have been in the past, but the two that were held Tuesday night enjoyed overflow attendance.

At Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ, right across the street from The Mercury and an awfully convenient place to get a hot dog, there were so many people out front they were running out of sidewalk.

Erika Hornburg-Cooper, Judy Memberg and
Christopher Willman at the Beech Street Factory display, which was
"creating quite a buzz," according to Hornburg-Cooper.
And at the park at Washington and Chestnut streets a few blocks away, the music blared and people spilled out into the closed section of North Washington Street where food and useful information were being offered in near equal measure.

I had two favorite quotes from the evening, which floated up above the laughter of the kids and the gentle
murmur of adults agreeing with each other.

The first one came from Judy Memberg, the tireless and (most important) effective head of Genesis Housing Corp.

She said, in an almost off-hand way, "“We can rebuild every house in a block, but if we don’t rebuild relationships among neighbors, than we haven’t revitalized the neighborhood.”

Having joined Erika Hornburg-Cooper at the display for the Beech Street Factory project -- which will also be the new home of Hornburg-Cooper's art center -- Memberg was observing that it will take more than physical improvements to spruce up a neighborhood.

Investment in human capital is just as important -- something National Night Out highlights.
Pottstown Mayor Sharon Thomas, right, visits with Gloria Dunn

My other favorite quote came from Mayor Sharon Thomas -- whose church, Victory Christian Life Center, was the other primary sponsor of the evening.

She said, again without a lot of forethought, “National Night Out is very important so neighbors get to know each other instead of just passing each other getting out of their cars.”

The mayor is right, and its sad that she's right, but we have to learn how to get better at being neighbors.

I will admit that there are plenty of people on my block whose names I should know, and I don't.

As the mayor intuited, we are literally nodding acquaintances when we head to our cars and scurry into our blissfully air-conditioned homes.

When kids threw a rock at our front door and broke the glass several years ago, it was the neighbor across the street -- long moved away -- who charged out of his house and chased them while I tried to keep the glass out of the house.

I never did learn his name.

Here are the Tweets and video links from last night's events.

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