National Night Out put the unity in our community Tuesday evening as folks brought their children to Philip Marx Central Park to meet with local law enforcement, play games and receive pertinent information regarding safety and disaster awareness.
Now in its sixth season, the annual event continues to grow each year nationwide and within Tehachapi itself. This year's theme was Emergency Preparedness and the evening included static displays, an identification booth for children, bicycle rodeo, giveaways and a blood drive by Houchin Community Blood Bank.
Following the recent mass shootings that occurred last weekend in other parts of the nation, local organizers and participants felt the event stood to serve of particular importance to bring awareness and safety to the community.
"We have a new deputy security officer, and we also have a full resource officer coming on board this year," said Tehachapi High School Principal Cristina Labatique, who was among other staff members participating in the event on behalf of Tehachapi Unified School District. "We are all working collaboratively to make sure we have measures in place and a fully-staffed campus security."
According to Labatique, a new program was implemented last year where students could text anonymous tips to assist the school district in securing local campuses.
"It's all about building partnerships and developing a relationship with the community so we can all work together to make it a safer city and to make sure we have safe neighborhoods and safe schools," Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger said about National Night Out. "It's a great opportunity to come on out and meet your local law officers in a really good setting and enjoy a night out and meet your neighbors."
Members of the CERT team were on hand to discuss emergency preparedness, including what to do with animals in the event of a disaster.
"Tehachapi is one of those places where we have huge hearts and we want to help," said Jeannie Taylor, volunteer for the Central California Animal Disaster Team.
This year's event saw many new participants, such as Kern County Aging and Adult Services.
"We are having a blast and the people are having a blast," said Carolina Oehler, program technician. "Everybody is getting to know about their community services and all the things that the county has to offer."
Mayor Susan Wiggins said she has been coming to National Night Out since its inception; however, this year was the first time she brought her grandchildren.
"I think this is a wonderful event because I wanted the little ones to see that these people are all friendly, and that there is nothing to be afraid of," the mayor said. "I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of the children to meet up with the first responders."