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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

North Adams National Night Out: A Link in a Change

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Children enjoyed the games and activities offered during an Aug. 2 North Adams-based National Night Out event.
View Slide Show
North Adams – A city-based Aug. 2 National Night Out event was more than just a local celebration of a national initiative, said Natalie Cain, a Northern Berkshire Community Coalition staff member. The coalition sponsored the event.

This year’s event underscored a rejuvenation occurring within specific neighborhoods that have, during past years, felt somewhat isolated from the community-at-large, Cain said during an early afternoon interview.

“There is a shift happening, a positive shift,” she said. “I see it and I believe the community sees it. Neighborhood residents share ownership of events such as National Night Out and also share ownership of the changes. National Night Out is about the idea that neighborhoods are about families and that families can be safe and feel that they have community in their neighborhoods. And because of that, residents have ownership in their neighborhoods.”

National Night Out was designed to empower residents of communities across the country and encourage active participation with neighborhood safety. “Night out” events have occurred nation-wide over the past two decades and locally since the mid-1990s; the Tuesday night city festivities occurred at the Masonic Temple and included games for children and adults as well as a cookout. Bicycle helmets were made available to children at no charge, and police officers from several Northern Berkshire communities were on hand to talk with families and provide information about community safety. All community residents were welcome to attend.


Ciara Ramos, 3, and Elizabeth Ramos, 2, seemed pleased with their painted faces.
Northern Berkshire law enforcement officers spoke about National Night Out during the event.

“I think the event is great and I think we have to make sure it happens every year,” said North Adams police Officer Al Zoito.

“It’s a good thing and it’s real nice for the kids,” said North Adams police Det. Robert Canale.

Adams police Officer Scott McWhirt and Williamstown police Officer Amalio Jusino echoed the sentiments, as did Lanesboro police Officer Jim Rathbun, who attended the event accompanied by “Nitro,” his canine law enforcement “partner.”

Cain emphasized that the event has significant merit.

“The purpose is to encourage neighbors to work together to take their neighborhoods back [from illegal activities],” she said. “Different communities do different things. In our area, we have the agencies that are involved in public safety, and we involve the community. The Masonic Temple has been great; they cook and they donate some of the food. Families from the neighborhoods come and people get to know each other. Part of the message is to keep your porch lights on, go outside and talk to people. The message is ‘it’s safe when you know your neighbors and when you know your police officers.’”

Cain acknowledged that genuine change requires more than one event or one program, and said that in the city, numerous events, programs and activities affiliated with the Northern Berkshire Neighbors initiative are changing neighborhoods for the better.

Four neighborhood groups, the Bracewell Avenue area UNO group and the Brayton Hill, Greylock, and Mohawk Forest neighborhood coalitions, have worked for over a decade to create community awareness among families and positive results are blossoming, she said.

Natalie Cain spent part of the day working the phone in anticipation of a National Might Out event.


Over time, the groups launched a variety of neighborhood activities including holiday parties, summer events and backyard movie nights; more recent endeavors include a summer baseball series that includes teams from the four neighborhoods. A scrimmage-style game held last week drew friends and families from every team neighborhood to an athletic field, proof, said Cain, that “an atmosphere of friendliness” has grown from years’ worth of inclusive events such as the National Night Out and the NBCC’s Community Recognition Awards ceremony.

“People attend these events and they meet people from other neighborhoods,” she said. “Then they see each other again at the supermarket, and they speak to each other. Every event builds these relationships and strengthens the connections. I know I keep coming back to the baseball, but there it was: you had families coming out of their own neighborhoods and getting together, and it was parents and grandmas and grandpas. It was the kids getting together. It was the fruit of all the years of seeds being sown.”

Cain credited NBCC Community Programs Director Kathy Keeser with much of the positive progress.

“She just loves this community,” Cain said. “She’s like the Energizer bunny; she’s just going, going, going, and look what she’s been able to do. I think we have broken through some barriers and we are building on all these positive pieces.”


Williams College student and NBCC intern Amber LaFountain created a National Night Out banner and colored the sign by hand.
Area business and civic leaders and organizations have served as “positive pieces” through donations and volunteer efforts, and Cain noted that the cooperation and support has been invaluable.
“Everything that’s been done has opened doors,” she said. “And I honestly believe that it’s all of these things that overflow and bring our neighborhoods together. Neighborhoods are people and when you bring people together, you can make change.”

A multi-photograph National Night Out slideshow will be posted at www.iberkshires.com during the upcoming week.

Susan Bush can be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.

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