Better late than never as my space this week will thank everyone for making the Niagara Falls Block Club Council’s annual Crime Night Out a success. We had the largest attendance ever at this year’s event. In spite of a downpour, over 500 people attended. Nick D’Agostino from East Side Block Club and I did a little advance work passing out flyers in the neighborhood the week before and it worked. The publicity on the radio, newspaper and Internet sparked lots of interest also.

These events take a lot of planning and organizing and finally the set up on the actual day at the Polish Nook Restaurant on Cudaback Avenue. Nick and I, along with Roger Spurback worked a good part of the day setting up the area while waiting for delivery of the tent, tables and chairs, etc. We owe a debt of gratitude to Kathy at the Polish Nook for opening her doors to our organization as we wanted to hold our event in that neighborhood.

Just before the start up time Roger and I made a mad dash downtown to sit at the table with our governor, Eliot Spitzer, who had come to Niagara Falls to hear citizen’s ideas on how his administration could help. Unfortunately we had to leave in the middle of this meeting (who else could walk out of a meeting with the governor wearing a dirty T-shirt and get away with it?) but we still had the opportunity to express ourselves. We told him we needed support on demolition of abandoned houses, continuation of crime prevention funding for Operation Impact and somehow we need to get our fair share of homeland security funds among other things. We invited him to our event and presented a souvenir water bottle.

When we returned, we were surprised at the amount of people already there. We had invited many interesting service agencies to hand out information on their organization and most had a little something to “give away.” We were overwhelmed at the size of the crowd and had to order more pizza.

The bounce house never materialized due to the rain, but we had the fire safety mobile unit with Al Hornung in charge. He is the life safety educator for the Falls Fire Department and is assigned to community relations. The mobile unit is actually a mock up of a room in a house and teaches children how to escape from a burning building. He said over 150 kids went through the house that night and he looked sort of worn out at the end of the evening.

The Niagara Falls City Drug Court was present along with TASC. McGruff the Crime Dog, the national symbol of the Sheriff’s Association, made his annual appearance and the kids all wanted to be photographed with him. He is quite a ham. Other agencies such as Niagara Falls Weed and Seed, Opportunities Unlimited, Kiwanis Club and ReNu Niagara COPC were present. A major part of National Night Out is to introduce the citizens to law enforcement. They were well represented.

Our newest block club, the Falls Street Block Club, with boundaries including Falls and Welch from 27th Street to Hyde Park were in charge of popcorn outside and handling crowd control at the Operation Safe Child inside. Twinkletoes the Clown always makes the children smile with her happy face and great balloon toys.

Two youth groups were with us — the Niagara Falls Junior Military League Cadets whose motto is “A little guidance now will last a lifetime” and the 3rd Regiment Corps of Cadets supervised by the National Guard. They performed the presentation of colors at the start of our program and stayed to help with the clean up.

After some nice words from Mayor Vince Anello and others, emcee and friend, Tom Darro presented our Citizen Partner of the Year Award to Iney Wallens, a longtime radio host. Iney keeps the community informed of events throughout our area on her weekly radio show on WJJL 1440 on Fridays. The River Rapids Block Club was presented with the Block Club of the Year Award and our state representatives, Sen. Antoine Thompson and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, presented us with a “big check” representing our grant from the Criminal Justice Services Division through their efforts.

Thanks to all who helped, participated and attended. See you next year!

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council. Her columns appear Mondays in the Gazette.

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