homepage logo

Shepherdstown Night Out: Event connects community with emergency service providers

By Staff | Sep 27, 2019

Shepherdstown Police Department patrolman Robert Seeders grabs a slice of pizza, as Patty Grunwald, of Middletown, Md., helps Shepherdstown Elementary School second grader Penelope Herrold, left, and Shepherdstown Elementary School kindergartner Ollie Grunwald, get their own slices of pizza during Shepherdstown Night Out on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — In the distance, a fire truck’s ladder reached high into the sky, as community members and emergency service providers mingled along North King Street during Shepherdstown Night Out on Saturday.

Inspired National Night Out, Shepherdstown Night Out similarly encouraged community members to get to know their local police, firefighters and emergency service nonprofit organizations in a fun atmosphere.

“They wanted to come — he’s waiting for the bowling and she’s waiting for the movie. He loves hats, so he liked that he could have a fireman’s hat,” said Patty Grunwald, of Middletown, Md., about Shepherdstown Elementary School second grader Penelope Herrold and Shepherdstown Elementary School kindergartner Ollie Grunwald.

According to Grunwald, having Cooper the chocolate Labrador K-9 police dog, games and other fun events, encouraged the children to see firefighters and police in a natural light.

“I don’t know how much contact they have with firemen and police, so I hope this will make them less fearful of them,” Grunwald said. “They’re just regular people, and I hope this will help them see them as that.”

Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department Junior Firefighter Gabriel Jennier balances above the water in the dunk tank, right before Dreswood Elementary School second grader Camden Hodges dunks him on Saturday night. Tabitha Johnston

Co-organizer Pam Donato said she hoped the event would encourage children to feel safe with emergency service personnel when meeting them during an emergency.

“It’s just meant to be a very casual affair,” Donato said. “I’m glad to see the kids have come out — that was the goal. The whole idea was that their first introduction with [police and firefighters] would not be at a horrible event. We want kids to feel comfortable approaching them as they grow up. It kind of takes the mystery out of things.”

Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department Lieutenant Troy Baker agreed with Donato, and said he has personally seen the need for an event like this on-the-job.

“A lot of kids seem to feel uncomfortable around firefighters — events like this help them to feel more comfortable around us in emergency situations,” Baker said, mentioning the fire department was doing more than mingling with community members. “In the back, we’re giving away safety pamphlets, fire hats and doing demonstrations. This is a great opportunity for everybody in the community to get together and meet each other.”

Along with highlighting the work of the police and fire departments, Donato said Shepherdstown Night Out also made sure community members could learn about other organizations that can give them help in times of emergency.

Children compete in a gunny sack race beside McMurran Hall on Saturday night. Tabitha Johnston

“The one thing that sets our night out from others, is we’ve gone out of our way to invite other nonprofits, so children can see the social fabric that keeps the community working together,” Donato said, mentioning the police department gave out identification kits at the event.

Shepherdstown resident Carol Goldthorpe manned one booth at the event, representing New Street United Methodist Church and Jefferson County Community Ministries.

“We wanted to let the community know what’s available to them. Some folks are a little intimidated to stop in at Jefferson County Community Ministries — they’re not sure what to expect. But our folks are very caring and welcoming, and want to walk them through all of the help they offer,” Goldthorpe said, mentioning she was also sharing JCCM volunteering opportunities with passersby.

Community members visit booths along North King Street, during Shepherdstown Night Out on Saturday night. Tabitha Johnston