DOZENS OF North Laurel residents flocked Tuesday night to Cissell Avenue to observe the 19th National Night Out against crime, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.
A barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers, provided by the North Laurel Civic Association, was held at the home of Donna Thewes, the Howard County Police Department's North Laurel community liaison.
The national program, which last year involved 33 million people in more than 9,000 communities across the United States, is designed to prevent crime, build neighborhood spirit and foster partnership between police and communities.
National Association of Town Watch officials predicted a bigger turnout this year.
They believe that the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 increased public concerns about safety and made people more involved in what is happening in their communities.
On Tuesday night, citizens across the nation were encouraged to turn on their porch lights, lock their doors and spend a few hours outside with their neighbors.
On July 15, Howard County Executive James N. Robey and the Howard County Council issued a joint proclamation declaring Aug. 6 as National Night Out in Howard County.
The proclamation states, "National Night Out sends a clear signal that neighborhood crime will not be tolerated."
Twenty-three groups in Howard County registered with the National Association of Town Watch and the Howard Police Department to hold official Night Out functions this year.
Thewes has lived in North Laurel for 14 years and has opened her home for National Night Out parties for the past 10 years. In addition to her work with the Police Department, Thewes is also treasurer of the North Laurel Civic Association.
She said she is proud of her North Laurel neighborhood and wants everyone to know that it is a great place to live.
"We are so real down here," said Thewes, describing the folks in her community.
"I live in a neighborhood of people willing to ask for help and people willing to give it," she said. "I love my neighbors. I love my neighborhood."
The Police Department was represented at the event by Capt. Sandra Regler of the Human Resources Department, Lt. Michael Price of the Special Operations Unit and North Laurel community police Officer Susan Ensko.
Residents were able to tour the Police Department's command post - a high-tech, mobile police station that has been in operation almost four years.
The command post was driven by Cpl. Pete Moskala, who was accompanied by administrative support technician Rachel Miller of the public affairs office.
Scruff the dog made an appearance, to the delight of neighbors young and old.
Scruff is the nephew of McGruff the Crime Dog, who has urged Americans since 1980 to help "take a bite out of crime."
Many elected officials turned out to greet neighbors and discuss community issues.
They included state Dels. Shane Pendergrass and Frank S. Turner, state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader and County Councilman Guy J. Guzzone.
Other visitors were Diane Wilson, who is seeking election to the Howard County Council, and Clark Schoeffield, who is running for county executive.
National Night Out "is a terrific way for folks to get together, maybe meet some new neighbors and look out for each other," Guzzone said.
"That's what it's all about."
For Night Out hostess Thewes, the reason for getting involved is simple.
"Bottom line," she said, "your family, your home and your community should always come first."
New assistant principal
Bill Jenkins is the new assistant principal at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Jessup. Jenkins has been with the Howard County public school system for about 20 years.
He comes to Bollman Bridge from Elkridge Elementary School, where he served as assistant principal for five years. Jenkins held the same position for four years at Clarksville Elementary School.
With a music degree from Towson State and a master's in education from the Johns Hopkins University, Jenkins taught music in Howard County for 10 years before moving into administration.
A new job is not the only change for Jenkins this year. On Aug. 2, he was married to Elkridge Elementary School first-grade team leader Kelli Lafferty.
Jenkins is "looking forward" to his reunion with Bollman Bridge Principal Pamela Butler. The two worked together when Butler taught at Swansfield Elementary School 20 years ago.
Children and their families are invited to the school Aug. 23 for a new-student orientation from noon to 1 p.m. and an open house from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
PTSA needs help
The Reservoir High School PTSA in Fulton needs volunteers to serve on several committees. Many positions require a minimal time commitment, and some jobs may be done from home.
If you can help, contact PTSA President Ann McGhee, 301-498-8549, or firstname.lastname@example.org.