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Residents and first responders interact at National Night Out

Steven James BCC Editor

Bandera County first responders hosted National Night Out Tuesday, Oct 4 from 5:30 to 8, to give residents an opportunity to learn about safety and law enforcement programs and upcoming events, and to interact with their local responders and their neighbors.
The main event was held at the Boys and Girls Club of Bandera County, located at 715 Maple St. All nine fire departments hosted events at certain locations, Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith said. Donations were welcome, but all events and activities were free. The National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit that enhances community unity through law enforcement, volunteer and neighborhood watch resources, sponsors the event, according to the association’s website. NATW national project coordinator Matt Peskin founded NNO in 1984 with a $15,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. In most states, National Night Out is held the first Tuesday of August, but Texas hosts National Night Out the first Tuesday of October after the weather has cooled.
Other than fire, police and emergency management departments, National Night Out is also hosted by nonprofits, local businesses and block watches. The City Marshal’s Office, Bandera County Sheriff’s Office, Bandera Fire and Rescue, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Bandera County Emergency Management and Warriors Heart were all present. Local businesses contributed to the evening’s festivities, including the Chicken Coop and Lowe’s Market.
“Nowadays, people don’t even know their neighbors,” Bandera Marshal Will Dietrich said. “If they have a problem with them, they don’t watch out for their houses, they don’t talk to them when they have a problem with what goes on with them, and that makes that problem worse and worse and worse.”
Dietrich said this is the main event first responders hold every year.
“I’ve met people tonight who just moved here, and the only reason why they come out tonight is to meet other people,” Dietrich said. “They’re not sure how the EMS services here work. They get to meet the people who will be going to their houses if they have a problem.”
NNO used to be held at the fire station, but because of bad turnout, the event got moved last year to the Boys and Girls Club, Dietrich said. Nearly 300 people attended last year’s event, and around the same showed up Tuesday night.
With t-shirt sales, NNO made approximately $1,500, Dietrich said. All sales go towards hosting future NNOs, he also said. Dietrich also said more money was received from individual donations, but was unsure of the exact amount.
In addition to meeting their emergency responders, people also enjoyed two inflatable bounce houses, fire trucks, squad cars, two helicopters, a raffle, music, free candy, hamburgers, hotdogs and dancing.
Near the end of the event, Dietrich thanked the people who made the evening possible, including the Kid Korral Learning Center, the Flying L Ranch, the Silver Spur, the Boys and Girls Club, Bandera ISD and the private donators.
Stith said people cannot do enough to support firefights, especially because most in Bandera County are volunteers.
“When you see them, give you thanks,” Stith said. “Everybody does a good job, but when you’re not getting paid and you’re leaving during Christmas, and leaving during Thanksgiving, and you’re going to the firehouse, they don’t do that because they have to, they do that because it’s a commitment they have in their own heart.”
Warriors Heart, which treats active and veteran members of the military and emergency response institutions, opens in Bandera at 756 Purple Sage Road on Oct 15.
“I think it’s great when you can bring the community together, and the kids together, and this is a great uniting event,” Bandera Warrior’s Heart co-founder Lisa Lannon said. “I met some of the other first responders in the area, and just had a good time.”