By Christina Autry
Baker Ripley and Lone Star College teemed with families and first responders alike, all dedicating two evening hours to celebrate East Aldine District’s National Night Out (NNO). October in Texas means an annual opportunity for Texans to “give neighborhood crime and drugs a going-away party,” an event that is celebrated around the United States. Any neighborhood or civic organization is welcome to host their own NNO party, and East Aldine makes sure to go big in support of district safety.
The packed Lone Star College parking lot was my first indication of how significant this event is within the East Aldine community. A bouncy house, games for kids, a taco truck, kids enjoying the activities and smiling adults congregated in front of Lone Star College’s new facility. “This is the first year that Lone Star College has been open for NNO,” says Veronica Sanchez, Director of Services for the East Aldine District. Visitors were able to tour the state-of-the-art building while getting a respite from the warmth of the outdoors.
Lone Star is a component of the master-planned Town Center, a 300,000 sq./ft. “economic development catalyst designed to enhance the skill sets and business opportunities of area residents,” as described by the property owner, East Aldine Management District. Major developments within Town Center include the Baker Ripley campus, the Harris County 911 Call Center, and in the near future: an amphitheater, district offices, kids play areas, and a Joe V’s grocery store.
Just across the pedestrian-friendly street from Lone Star College, the NNO party continued on the Baker Ripley campus. This is the second year that NNO has utilized these beautifully modern facilities for this community event. Booths with local civic organizations and schools lined the pathway beside the buildings, first responders were stationed with their emergency vehicles on display, and public officials chatted with their constituents. Meet and greet opportunities among all parties helped meet the goal of NNO, “to root out crime by developing strong relationships within communities.”
“The purpose is to socialize, and familiarize the community with the people who are serving them,” says Sanchez. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Homeland Security SWAT truck proved a huge attraction, as people of all ages climbed inside the massive vehicle for a photo or selfie. Harris County Emergency Corps and officers, the Westfield Fire Department, and EMS came out to support the mission of NNO.
“The event has grown tremendously over the years,” Sanchez reflects. “We’ve gained more partnerships, and more families are coming out and enjoying the activities, while learning about the organizations in our community.”
Because Baker Ripley is a facility dedicated to serving the community, all buildings were open and being used for regularly occurring classes during the NNO event. Visitors were welcome to check out the Chevron Fab Lab, a workshop equipped with specialized tools and materials available for any inventor, entrepreneur, hobbyist or student with a desire to create.
“Baker Ripley has all types of classes for youth and adults, classes that the community has asked for. Whenever there is a need for a class, Baker Ripley finds instructors and figures out how to bring the opportunity to the center,” says Sanchez.
In one of the Baker Ripley buildings, a long line could be seen stretching out of a room full of Halloween costumes that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was giving away, in partnership with Walmart. Happy children paraded out of the room, costumes in hand (or in the hands of their equally happy parents).
As the community’s biggest advocate, the East Aldine District strives to improve the area, from funding projects such as streetlight installation and trash pick-up, to creating educational and business opportunities that simply did not exist previously. With the 2019 NNO under their belt, the district aims for another year of positive progress, and looks forward to an even bigger National Night Out Against Crime in 2020.