McDuffie County residents partied and fellowshiped with a purpose Tuesday night, Aug. 6.

The party at the Dearing track was a celebration of community safety, an opportunity for neighbors to get to know neighbors and meet members of local law enforcement in a fun and casual atmosphere.

It was National Night Out and law enforcement officers from a variety of agencies, firefighters, first responders, community leaders and citizens all came together in Dearing in an attempt to build better community relations.

During the opening, the local community engaged in a moment of silence to remember and honor 911 Communications Officer Sharon G. Sims who died Aug. 4 from injuries received in a July 27 vehicle accident.

Held the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out is a community-police awareness-raising event in the United States that aims to better foster positive relationships between public safety and the communities they serve. It also aims to heighten awareness of crime and drug prevention and build support and participation in local anti-crime programs.   On Aug. 6, individuals from communities in all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases gathered in their neighborhoods to celebrate community and law enforcement partnerships.

The local celebration, under the auspices of the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office, had more meaning this year as communities across the county mourn the victims of the recent mass shootings.

According to Sheriff Logan Marshall, the shootings make National Night Out more significant. He said National Night Out helps neighbors know one another and law enforcement to know them. It also better fosters the mantra that if one knows something or sees something to let someone know, he added. “It is all about being proactive rather than reactive by waiting for something to happen,” the sheriff said.

The event featured speakers, free food, gifts, giveaways, resources, safety items for children and adults, live music and more.  

Gabriel Cruze, formerly of Nicaragua, spoke to the audience about arriving in Dearing with only $150 but being free from problems associated with being under the auspices of a dictatorship.

“We fled to this country and came to Dearing. God has blessed us,” he said. “I want to thank the officers here for their sacrifices in keeping the community safe,” he said. “I see how blessed I am to be with people who care about the community. I am thankful to be here. We are blessed with the freedom of religion and speech that we have in this country,” Cruze said.  He then offered prayer for the community and unity.

Recommended for you