JACKSON – The 34th Annual National Night Out program was observed Tuesday, August 1 in several towns across Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Jackson was one of them and it filled the parking lot at the ShopRite Shopping Center (260 North County Line Road) offering adults and children a chance to meet with police officers and those who are first on the scene in an emergency situation.
The program was designed to foster a mutual appreciation and respect between residents and law enforcement. Various fire companies, emergency service agencies and community organizations participated in the program that drew more than a thousand residents to the parking lot filled with vehicles, booths and children’s games.
Township Police Lt. John Convery served as coordinator for the event, whose main sponsor was PBA #168. “We’ve been doing this for over 20 years in Jackson and it started off small and became larger over the years. It is part meet and greet, part street fair and part informational.”
Convery added that Night Out provides a friendly atmosphere for residents to get to know the emergency service personnel who assist them during a problem.
“It isn’t a traffic stop or an emergency situation. It allows us to meet them in a better situation and we are able to show extrication demonstrations. Our police vehicles and parents can participate in our child identification program,” Convery said.
Police Chief Matthew Kunz said, “We have a great turnout here tonight. The program follows the national program yet showcases the township’s unique services and those involved with emergency services. It makes for a nice community relations effort. The public can check out our SWAT vehicles and everything is free.”
That included food such as the Jackson Kiwanis Club’s hot dogs. “We have 12 members here tonight serving up around 2,500 hot dogs – something we’ve done since this event first started in Jackson,” Club President Lois Kapp said. She said the event also allowed her organization to talk to the public about what it does in regards to helping special needs children, veterans and other special causes.
The Jackson Elks Lodge #2744 had 10 of their members present, including their mascot Elmo. “This is our first time here and we are putting ourselves out more to let people know what we do for veterans and our drug abuse program. Elmo is our mascot for our very successful drug abuse awareness program,” Leading Knight Frank Scotto said.
Quality Medical Transport Supervisor Ryan Meahan said this was the first time his company was represented at the program. “We’ve been contracted with the township for nearly 10 years now and we are here tonight to meet with the public and let them know that we are here for them.”
Resident Angela Harris was shopping at ShopRite and noticed what was going on and decided to check out the activities with her children. “We are having a lot of fun and learning some things.”
Residents Danielle and Richard Belmonte were also enjoying the event along with their 2-year-old daughter Olivia for the first time. Olivia enjoyed spraying water at a display board with the help of Cassville Firefighter Mitch Worbettz and one of the fire company’s fire hoses.
“We moved here four years ago but this is our first time for this,” Danielle Belmonte said.
“It has quite a turnout,” Richard Belmonte said.
“We’ve been part of this event for about 15 years now,” Worbettz said regarding his fire company’s participation.
Dana Shafer was another first time attendee to the event along with her infant daughter Daniella and her 4-year-old son Jacob Shafer.
Jacob had fun sliding down an inflatable bounce game ramp during the program. “It is something nice to do outside and it sure is better than being at home watching TV,” Dana Shafer said.