The Voorhees Township Police Department held its sixth National Night Out at Connolly Park on Aug. 3.
For two hours, local organizations, businesses and first responders set up tents where people could learn about community resources. There was also a food truck, Mr. Softee ice cream truck and a Rita’s Water Ice stand.
“This event is about community, and a lot of our sponsors wanted to get involved and let [the community] know what resources they have available to our residents and our business owners,” said officer Derek Hawkins. “It’s really about showing that law enforcement and community can come together and create a united front against crime.”
Throughout the night, police held several demonstrations, including how to use a drone and how K-9s are used to apprehend suspects. The Voorhees Fire Department was also on hand.
Also in attendance were nonprofits such as Volunteers of America and the Courageous Warrior Coalition, which offers yoga and other tools to first responders and front-line workers.
“We just started the organization last year,” founder Charles Pusloski said of the coalition. “We tried to do it in person, but obviously when the pandemic hit, we paused. And then we realized this is the time that people need it most right now, that front-line workers are under more and more stress.”
The group has archived classes available on its YouTube channel and continues to hold virtual classes over Zoom.
Representatives of the Camden County Women’s Center came out to educate people and recruit volunteers for the domestic violence response team. Danielle Brown, a crisis coordinator for the center, said volunteers go through 40 hours of training, learning about the legal system, restraining orders and everything else they need to become certified.
“We work directly with the police department, so when there’s an immediate time of crisis and a victim shows up there, they activate us,” Brown explained. “They call the hotline and say, ‘We have a victim at the police department, can you send an advocate?’ And whoever’s on the schedule at that moment we call and they go.”
The center supports domestic violence victims by providing housing, clothes and transportation after they arrive at the center. Women are housed there in an undisclosed location, with men and members of the LGBTQ community placed separately. The center also has a program for children of victims, where those ages 3 to 12 can participate in a seven month therapeutic program to learn peaceful solutions to conflict.
National Night Out is an annual event hosted by police departments across the country that takes place on the first Tuesday of August. According to its website, the event was started in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch.
To stay up to date with the Voorhees Township Police Department, visit https://www.vtpd.com/ or see their Facebook page.