This year, a group of residents planned a celebration for National Night Out at our Lundby Townhomes in Cedar Rapids, held August 1. Close to 50 residents turned out to take part, enjoying a potluck dinner, bounce house for the kids, and visits from several Cedar Rapids police and fire officials including Sgt. Cristy Hamblin who leads a unique Citizens Police Academy for the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
In the words of the organizers, National Night Out is “an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”
At Community Housing Initiatives, we work with a wide range of community organizations focused on health, education, safety to provide services and opportunities to our residents, and that includes police and other law enforcement officials.
In fact recently, two CHI staff, Paula Gourley, regional manager for Eastern Iowa and Melissa Gradischnig, who oversees resident services in the area, had the opportunity to participate in the Citizens Police Academy Sgt. Hamblin leads.
“Paula and I decided to take this class to help us build relationships with the police department and understand the role they serve in the community,” said Gradischnig. “We are all part of the same Cedar Rapids community and need to work together, and we thought this would help us share useful information with our residents.
The program was 10 weeks long, covering every part of the police department, including a tour of the Linn County jail, driving a police car and a ride-along with officers.
“We gained much respect for what police officers go through and the risks associated with doing their difficult job,” Melissa said. “We have been able to pass this message on to residents that possibly at some point have had a bad experience with law enforcement to try to help build some trust. We’ve also been able to talk with kids in our apartments about safety and the role of Cedar Rapids Police Department and how they can help our community.”
Working on our Resident Services team, part of Gradishnig’s role is to work in CHI’s apartment buildings with groups of residents and individually to make sure everyone feels welcome, included and safe.
“Our communities feel more like home when people have a chance to get to know their neighbors, and that’s why it’s so great when our residents work together to bring events like National Night Out to places to their home at Lundby,” Gradischnig said.