WATERLOO — Nearly a dozen neighborhoods came together to celebrate the 34th annual National Night Out on Tuesday.
The celebration kicked off late in the afternoon with block parties, cookouts, parades and visits from police and fire departments, among other local organizations, and City Council members, Mayor Quentin Hart and other city officials.
Over 10 Waterloo neighborhoods, including Maple and Walnut, participated in this year’s event, each creating a different vibe.
The Maple’s gathering was held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and featured activities for all ages, including bingo inside the church and a bike safety course in the parking lot for children while attendees feasted on burgers and hot dogs inside.
UnityPoint Health was there providing free blood pressure readings and giving out helmets to children in order to enforce safety habits.
Meanwhile, Walnut’s event made it their mission to enjoy the beautiful summer evening as residents of the neighborhood chatted over their potluck meals while sitting in the shade of the Boys and Girls Clubs building.
“We just attempt a lot of different things and look for what’s right,” said Walnut's Neighborhood Association President Laura Hoy. “A lot of neighborhoods think, ‘what’s wrong and what’s missing.’ We instead try really hard to say, ‘what’s right, what do we have, let’s build on it.’”
Over the last 10 years of Walnut’s involvement with NNO, the location and activities for the event have varied. This year’s was held on Harvest Vineyard Church’s lawn with food being served in the kitchen of the Boys and Girls Clubs, who donated that space.
As the attendees visited, it was obvious they already knew each other from past celebrations as well as from other events held within the neighborhood.
These events include bi-weekly Picnic in the Park gatherings on Sundays, prayer walks on Tuesdays, community breakfasts on Saturdays and “miracle of marigolds” and “zinnia blast” annual planting parties.
“We’ve been working on this neighborhood for a long time,” said Judy Marshall, Harvest Vineyard’s pastor. “We already have kind of a neighborhood awareness because of the other things, and that helps build momentum for change.”
Walnut’s neighborhood association has various partnerships with other organizations including House of Hope, Boys and Girls Clubs, Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls and the Youth Art team. Marshall said these relationships help “change the us and them into we.”
Unity within the community is an important aspect for Walnut and its residents.
Along with the neighborhood’s monthly meetings, one specific “listening meeting” allowed the residents to voice their areas of concern and raised awareness for the community’s housing issues. Therefore, a house rehab program began and has since renovated four homes.
“It’s been a journey, and it’s been tough along the way,” Marshall said. “But now we’re finally seeing the fruit of the things that we’ve been hoping for.”