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Neighbors connect with public safety

Rosemount children line up to climb into the big orange snow plow truck at Ailesbury Park during Night to Unite Aug. 7, 2018. They also explored the bells and whistles inside a police squad car while officers and first responders built relationships with community members. Kara Hildreth / Contributor 1 / 2
Children play on an explore the inflatable waterslide at the home of Nick and Anna Hudyma on Empire Trial during the National Night Out where Farmington fire and police visited hundreds of residents in neighborhoods. Kara Hildreth / Contributor 2 / 2

Three years ago Lori and Nick Geller decided to host a block party in their backyard. They discovered it was the first time neighbors had gathered to socialize outdoors in two decades.

"I really felt compelled to do it again and so we try to do it every year and I try to get together with them occasionally," said Lori Geller, who makes a home off Biscayne Avenue in Rosemount.

The weather was perfect Aug. 7 as neighbors from Rosemount celebrated Night to Unite and Farmington neighbors met for National Night Out.

The Geller's 9-year-old twins, Hailey and Everett, had fun sharing the backyard treehouse and welcomed all to get wet sliding down the long, plastic slip-and-slide covering a big hill in the backyard. All the youngsters appeared to be carefree, playing yard games, jumping in bouncy houses and atop a trampoline or trying the retro Hula-hoop outdoors until dark. Adults gathered in the green space to enjoy potluck food and good conversation.

This year the NNO celebrated 35 years of neighbors from across the nation gathering on one evening to socialize and share a meal outdoors. The annual event was created to heighten awareness of crime and drug prevention with the goal of generating goodwill and support of police programs. Sponsored by Minnesota Crime Prevention Association, the event aims to foster enhanced relationships between neighbors and law enforcement while attempting to bring neighbors together to form close-knit communities.

"This Nite to Unite can make our community better and build stronger relationships and we want to know our communities better, and it is so much fun for the kids because they love seeing the police cars and we like to see the kids smiling so they are not afraid of us," Danielle Waage, community resource officer with Rosemount Police Department who organizes the city's annual event.

In both cities, local fire, police and city leaders shared meals and talked about life in the community. Residents were invited to donate hygiene and toiletry products to share with Dakota County families in need at 360 Communities Food Shelves.

Rosemount Fire and Rosemount Police, along with city leaders, visited nearly 50 neighborhood parties.

In Farmington, Nick and Anna Hudyma and neighbors along Empire Trail enjoyed a block party with food and outdoor fun for children who bounced, slid and played until dusk.

Farmington's Royal Ambassadors dressed in crowns and gowns showed up to play games and talk with residents at neighborhood parties. A few children in Farmington wrote notes of gratitude with chalk on driveways and sidewalks to thank public safety employees for their service.

"It is getting out and meeting the public because in our job we don't always get to see the public in a good way, and now we can reach out to the community and get to know them and give them a face behind the badge," Rosemount Police Sgt. Joe Risvold said during a stop at Ailesbury Park.

"It is fun for all of us to come out and get to know everybody and shake hands let them know what is going on with the city and with the police department," Risvold added.

Officers from both cities shared police badge stickers and allowed children to explore fire engines and squad cars as well as public works vehicles.

On the Rosemount Police force for more than 11 years, Risvold said it is rewarding to talk with residents and heartwarming to be treated like a superhero. But the personal words of gratitude mean the mos.

"Person after person have come up to thank us because obviously today with police you see negative stuff in the news, and it means a lot to the police to meet the community members and be able to hear that once in a while and how much they appreciate law enforcement."