Dozens of kids enjoy free food, interact with lawmen
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Dozens of local youngsters and their parents or guardians enjoyed four hours of food, fun and interaction with law enforcement officers during the second annual Patterson Street Fun Day, held last Saturday (August 27).
The event — initially a collaborative effort between Police Chief Chuck Brooks, Sheriff Heath Jackson and City Councilwoman Eunice Johnson — has grown to include numerous volunteers and donors from across the community, each of whom desires to help show kids that law enforcement can be their friend.
Jackson said the annual get-together creates two major benefits.
“It does two things,” the sheriff said. “It gives kids a chance to get out and do something fun in a safe environment — they don’t have to worry about getting run over by a car or about people causing any trouble. It also gives law enforcement a great chance to interact with people in the community, to knock down that stigma that you can’t approach law enforcement or spend time with them. It shows that we’re part of the community. That’s what we want everybody to know.”
Funk, rap and hip-hop music provided a background as a crowd that, including adults, numbered close to 100 took shelter from the heat by sitting under tents as they dug into hot dogs, grilled chicken or chicken alfredo that was cooked by Curtis Tucker and his crew, including his sons.
When they weren’t eating, the youngsters jumped or slid on bouncy houses, chased each other around the grounds or danced to the music. Several squared off against each other for basketball games, while others dribbled, shot and dunked along with Atmore Police Department officers Thaihee Staples, Gordon Brooks and Kenneth Boggan.
Several items, including two basketball goals and 10 basketballs, were given away during the late morning-early afternoon get-together.
Several on-duty city firemen also attended the event, helping set things up prior to commencement of the period of fun and helping take it down when it was over. They also provided water to turn large fans into misters and to provide ballast for the basketball goals.
The city councilwoman, who handed out heaping helpings of praise as she drew tickets and gave away corresponding prizes, said she, city police, the sheriff’s office and the volunteers who helped make the event a reality were merely servants.
“I’m glad to see everybody come out to have fun,” Johnson said, pointing out that the grounds on which the Fun Day is held (across the street from Patterson Street Apartments) are situated “right in middle” of the community. She handed out nearly 20 certificates of appreciation to those who gave their service to the community.
“That’s what I am, a servant,” she said. “Everybody who took part in this is here to serve you in the best way we can.”
Chief Brooks said he is happy that the event has proven successful both years it has been held.
“We just want to be present in the community, give the community an opportunity to talk with police officers in a different setting,” he explained. “It’s just a team effort. I want (youngsters and adults) to know we’re here to help, not here to be hard. It’s just a small thing we can do in the community to establish trust and have an open line of communications. I’m proud of it.”