‘Putting a Face to Those who Protect Our Community’

‘Putting a Face to Those who Protect Our Community’

Centreville communities celebrate National Night Out.

The Elms: Residents and law-enforcement officers celebrate together during National Night Out.

The Elms: Residents and law-enforcement officers celebrate together during National Night Out. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

National Night Out is a time for neighborhoods all across the country to gather outdoors for a fun and casual celebration with their local first responders. In Centreville, residents marked this 40th annual event with cookouts, ice cream, music and moonbounces and invited firefighters and law-enforcement personnel to join them. Here’s what happened last Tuesday, Aug. 1, at four of these events:

    The Elms: Kelly Brennan, son John and 1st Lt. Lucas Salzman with the Sheriff’s Office
By Bonnie Hobbs 

The Elms

An apartment community across from the Old Centreville Crossing shopping center, The Elms held its well-attended celebration in its parking lot, complete with snacks and colorful balloons. Among the visitors was Capt. Shawn Adcock, who oversees the Fairfax County Police Department’s Special Operations Division.

“I’ve been a police officer 18 years – 14, with FCPD – and every year, I look forward to engaging with the community and some of our younger officers out here,” he said. “National Night Out is a good reminder of why we serve and the tremendous support we have from our community – and it’s just fun.”

1st Lt. Lucas Salzman, with the Sheriff’s Office, called it “a great opportunity to do something different and have an interaction with the public in a friendly, relaxing environment. It’s also fun meeting the kids; they really enjoy it and that makes it worthwhile.”

One of those children was John Brennan, 4, who was there with his mom. “We wanted to meet the heroes that keep us safe,” said Kelly Brennan. “John is happy to know them, and they’re a great influence. He had cotton candy for the first time and is going into the bouncy house next. He also got lots of stickers and made some fun memories.”

Arlene Aguilar’s son Santi, 3, enjoyed the cotton candy, too. Having a good time, she said, “It’s a family-friendly event; and afterward, we’ll go to the pool and the park.”

Representing Legend, the apartment complex’s management company, Emily Romero, Jody Pujol and Rosario Pérez-Palma served up hot dogs, chips, sodas and cotton candy. “Through this event, we can bring the community together and connect with the local law-enforcement officers,” said Pujol. “So if someone sees something suspicious, they’d be comfortable contacting them.”

Agreeing, resident Brittany Burnett said, “It’s really nice getting to know your neighbors and the police and sheriffs who protect our town. I also got to tell them about the parking problem in our neighborhood. 

“People park large tractor trailers along Braddock Road in front of the shopping center all the time. So if you’re coming out of the shopping center and trying to turn right or left, you can’t see because of all the vehicles in the way. And it’s really dangerous at night because you can’t see the oncoming cars.”

    Village at Mount Gilead: Some of the residents who gathered at their community’s gazebo.
By Bonnie Hobbs 

Village at Mount Gilead

In Centreville’s Historic District, residents of Village at Mount Gilead gathered at their gazebo for pizza, home-baked cookies, chips, grapes, soda and ice cream. Husband-and-wife David Du and Ek Seo have lived in the community for a year and really enjoy being there.

“I like the quietness and greenery and the paths that make it easy to walk my dog,” said Du. “And there’s lots of common space.” As for National Night Out, he said, “It helps us put a face to the officers who protect our community. And with us being new here, it also gives us a chance to meet our neighbors.”

Seo described their neighbors as “friendly and nice,” adding that they “keep watch over each other’s homes. And it’s a good place to raise children.”

Sylvia Bailey and her husband Otis have lived there since 2007, and Sylvia organized their event. “I’m the homeowners’ association president, and I think it’s important for the police officers and community members to get together,” she explained. “That way, if there’s anything suspicious going on in the neighborhood, it’s nice to be connected to some officers you know. National Night Out is also a great opportunity for the neighbors to come out and get to know each other.”

    Sully II: Firefighters from Station 38 pose in front of their firetruck. At far left is Battalion Chief Randy Bittinger.
By Bonnie Hobbs 

Sully Station II

The parking lot of Sully Station II’s community center on Sully Park Drive was teeming with residents, firefighters and police officers. They mingled leisurely, listened to music from a deejay and enjoyed each other’s company on a warm, summer evening.

On the menu were hot dogs, pizza, chips, veggies, fruit, soda and an ice-cream station with three flavors and half a dozen toppings. And Carol DiSano, on the community’s activities committee, helped organize it all. 

“We had a wonderful turnout – at least a couple hundred people came,” she said. “It’s a great, family-friendly event where we show our appreciation for our local police officers and firefighters.”

Among them was MPO Scott Richards from the Sully District Police Station. “I’ve attended many of these, over the years,” he said. “National Night Out means a lot because the community is inviting us to join them. We do community outreaches with homeowners’ associations, and this event lets us get the crime-prevention message out to the residents and reaffirm our partnerships with the neighborhoods. And interacting with the kids brings joy to them and to us.”

Jisu Lim and Kay Vang took their son Elliot, 2, for a tour of an ambulance from West Centreville Fire Station 38. “He likes firetrucks and police cars, so we wanted to bring him here, and he had fun,” said Vang. “Besides that, we actually got to go out and see who lives in the same community as us and meet the officers and firefighters who serve our neighborhood.”

Also pleased to be there was Firefighter Tegarassen Rungen, from Clifton’s Station 16, but working that day with Station 38. “It’s always good to make connection with the community and see what we can do for them,” said Rungen. “Sometimes, we can answer their questions, and parents enjoy taking photos of their kids in the ambulance and fire engine.”

René Torres brought his immediate and extended family to the celebration. “It’s my first time at a National Night Out,” he said. “It’s a great time to come out of the house and share the evening with friends, family and neighbors. It’s pretty amazing – and I’m going to take the kids to see the firetruck, in a little bit.”

Chatting with the Station 38 firefighters by their truck was Fire Department Battalion Chief Randy Bittinger. “We love coming to these things,” he said. “Anytime we get to go to a neighborhood when it’s not for an emergency, it’s great. Being a part of the community brings the fellowship. 

“This evening, we gave out fire helmets, did tours of the equipment and answered lots of questions from both parents and children.” Then, with a nod to the Sully police officers there, too, Bittinger added, “We love doing any kind of community work with our brothers and sisters in blue.”

Meanwhile, dad Tim Reichel watched his three, young sons gobble up bowls of ice cream with gusto. “It’s our first time here,” he said. “They also looked inside a police car and a fire truck. It’s important to have good relations between the police and the community. The police get to hear what’s going on in people’s lives, and we get to see them in a positive light.”

    Little Rocky Run: From left are the Sully District Police Station’s PFC Meg Hawkins and MPO Scott Richards with Little Rocky Run’s Marjorie Ham with some neighborhood children.
By Bonnie Hobbs 

Little Rocky Run

The community center on Sandstone Way was the site of Little Rocky Run’s event. Attendees enjoyed grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings, chips and beverages. More than 125 people came, including Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis. But for the children, the best parts were getting their faces painted and jumping inside the moonbounce.

“The kids are the life and future of this community,” said Neighborhood Watch Coordinator Marjorie Ham. “So it’s a pleasure for me to serve Little Rocky Run, especially when I see the families getting together for events like this. Adults get to meet the first responders, and kids get to interact with the police officers so they’re not afraid of them.”

Missy Bunch was there with her husband and children. Sporting a colorful, butterfly facepainting, daughter Annabelle, 7, said, “I liked the Freezie pops, bouncy house and facepainting. And we got hamburgers and chocolate, too.”

“We’ve lived here eight years and came out to enjoy our community and meet some new neighbors,” said Bunch. “It’s family-friendly here, with lots of great amenities, like the pools and playgrounds. And this event is a nice way for the community to connect with law enforcement and for the residents to share some food and stories.”

Three-year resident Dallas Guillen said she likes her neighbors because “they’re friendly and we always help each other out. We enjoyed tonight’s cookout; National Night Out brings people together, and I was happy seeing my family having fun. The police gave my kids sticker badges and coloring books, and they liked that. But our favorite part was getting coupons from the police for free Slurpees at 7-Eleven.”