Over twenty years ago, Neighborhood Watch leaders Laurie and John Kitzke organized their first National Night Out party on SW Evelyn Street, which has since become an annual traditional.
Laurie and John limit the party to the neighbors within a couple blocks of their house. They feel a smaller party helps neighbors to get to know one another better. Since many residents stay inside during the winter, their party has been a way to bring neighbors back together. At the party, Laurie makes a point to introduce neighbors who may not be inclined to mingle and she puts extra effort into engaging neighbors who are new to the street.
Over three years ago, there was a problem neighbor who was suspected of participating in illegal activity. After the police got involved, the problem person went door to door trying to intimidate and dissuade neighbors from working with the police. Tensions on the street mounted and some neighbors became weary of calling the police. The Kitzke’s grappled with whether or not they should hold a National Night Out party that year, not knowing if the problem neighbor would show up or whether other residents would feel comfortable attending. They decided it was important to continue with their tradition, despite the concerns on the street. Their party was a big success that year and was attended by all of the neighbors, except the problem individual. The presence of Officers Hughes and Elwood and a big fire truck also helped put them at ease. Fortunately, the problem person has since moved out of the neighborhood, likely due in part to the neighbors refusing to tolerate illegal activity on their street.
After years of parties, Laurie says that she does not have to do much to get people together for National Night Out. She simply updates the flyer, arranges for someone to host the party, makes sure there is a grill available, and coordinates a potluck feast. Last year, the Kitzkes and their neighbors further added to the community spirit on Evelyn Street with the addition of a library box, which everyone was very excited to use.
The Evelyn Street NNO party represent the epitome of what the event is all about—bringing neighbors together and building community.