Community events like National Night Out are what bring everyone together collectively, while connecting people with the resources that they need,” says Marvin Thomas, Heartside Downtown Neighborhood leader. The Heartside Downtown Neighborhood Association will be hosting National Night Out on Tuesday, August 6, at Heartside Park. Local police officers will be joining community members from downtown Grand Rapids and Heartside Residents for an evening of community fun. The event is free, family-friendly, and will go from 5:30 pm-8:30 pm. This year’s National Night Out will offer a variety of food, yard activities, face painting, sidewalk chalk, a live drum circle, mobile art project, prizes, and resource tables from neighboring organizations and businesses.
A sense of community has the power to create an atmosphere of pride and belonging. For the Heartside Neighborhood, community events such as National Night Out are more than just food and games. It’s a time when neighbors come together, yielding meaningful interactions that take place between police officers, members of the community, and local businesses and organizations. By gathering together in Heartside Park and connecting through the engagement of music, art, and food, a sense of trust is built. When trust is present, a community has the capacity to start to feel like a home for all, not just some.
Community Officer Brian Grooms, who works in the Central Service Area, is subjected to the reality that simple, positive interactions are vital to a community like the Heartside Neighborhood. “[National Night Out] is a night where we can have that connection with someone on a positive level,” officer Grooms explains. “…having contact with the community that is not just related to enforcement, danger, or a complaint. They get to see us as part of the community too, and that’s the goal, I believe.” Grooms has dedicated 23 years to serving the city of Grand Rapids; the past two years, Grooms has served as a community officer in the Heartside neighborhood. In the past, Grooms has looked forward to interacting with community members at National Night Out by serving snow cones. This year, local police officers will be engaging with the community by assisting in a mobile art project taking place at the event, as well as handing out ice cream cups to the community.
“Sometimes we all live around each other and don’t know that someone is our neighbor; so, National Night Out is a great opportunity to mingle and get to know one another,” describes Marvin Thomas, a Dwelling Place resident who has lived in the Heartside Neighborhood for 16 years.
Marvin holds a leadership position in the Heartside Neighborhood as a board member for the Heartside Downtown Neighborhood Association. He also sits on the Dwelling Place Board of Directors. Marvin utilizes his skills and passion for his community to connect and engage members. He does this by recognizing that positive changes within the community are a byproduct of simply listening and helping one another. “What I would like to see for the Heartside community is to have people living their best, and living out a quality life.” Thomas appreciates the resources available at National Night Out as a tool to network and connect community members. He sees it as a gateway to attain his vision for a thriving community.
Alysha Lach White, founder and CEO of Little Space Studio and co-chair of the Heartside Downtown Neighborhood Association, is taking part in hosting National Night Out. “The Heartside Downtown Neighborhood Association hosts National Night Out because first and foremost it gets neighbors outside, it gets neighbors interested in their neighborhood, and it gives a sense of neighborhood pride,” explains White. “It is always important to support our community officers and fortunately, Heartside Neighborhood has great officers.” From White’s perspective, National Night Out is a symbol of gratitude towards the neighborhood and a significant opportunity to celebrate neighbors.
Resident leader Marvin Thomas, Alysha Lach White, and community Officer Brian Grooms know the true importance behind meaningful engagement within their community. Events open the door of opportunity to bridge potential gaps of mistrust, as well as culminate a place of unity where people can express themselves, eat food, and participate in activities- all while creating relationships and interactions with one another.
Dwelling Place is powered by volunteers and numerous staff persons, guest writers create our Rapidian content. Thanks to Sarah Beulla for her contribution of this piece. Sarah is an AmeriCorps VISTA at Dwelling Place, optimist, artist, Grand Valley State University Track and Field sprinter, lover of animals, and aspirant.
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