National Night Out
By Kelsey McKinney
The (Shreveport) Times
Shreveport's Clay Street was one of about 90 residential byways transformed into a block party Tuesday evening, fostering a sense of community and sending a message to criminals that they are unwelcome.
For Allendale, Night Out's crime awareness message hits particularly close to home. It is a neighborhood revitalized, said Shreveport police Cpl. Lonnie Haskins, who has been assigned to that district since he joined the force in 1997 and attended Tuesday's event along with other police officers and firefighters.
Parents were grilling out and chatting with each other while children laughed, ate hot dogs, made sidewalk art, jumped in a bouncy house and explored a fire engine.
"In '97, '98, '99, we were bumpin' and gunnin' out here," Haskins said of Allendale, where at the time at least five calls for service poured in each night. He's seen the neighborhood turn around, something he said he never envisioned could happen and for which he credits the Fuller Center for Housing of Northwest Louisiana and Friendship Houses.
Sherry Brown works for Community Renewal International and lives in one of the two Friendship Houses in the 1500 block of Clay, where trim and prim affordable houses built by the Fuller Center line the streets.
Harkening back to the neighborhood's violent past and in the spirit of Night Out, Fuller Housing recipient and neighbor Dorothy Wiley made a poster with a clever acronym.
"Let's say no to:
"C-arrying concealed firearms without a permit
"I-llegal possession of drugs/firearms
"E-ntry of an inhabited dwelling."
She posted it on the front door of one of the two Friendship Houses.
Rudolph Glass Jr., 45, and his wife immediately began to regret their decision when they bought a house on Clay 12 years ago. Not so now.
"Things really started to change when they put the Friendship House in. And ever since then it's just been getting better and better and better," said Glass, who has manned the grill at each of the past seven Night Out parties.
Community Renewal International's Brown says it all starts by meeting the needs of neighborhood children, which works as a domino effect in involving their parents.
Glass' 15-year-old son, Rudolph Glass III, has attended after-school programs at the Friendship Houses the past seven years. As the high school student helped tear down equipment from the party and carry boxes to cars, his father explained that he's involved in the neighborhood association and attends parent meetings in a neighborhood he didn't want to be a part of 12 years ago.