By Debbie Adams
The Vinton Police Department welcomed the community and Vinton Town Council to its annual National Night Out celebration on August 3 at the Charles R. Hill Community Center.
National Night Out is an evening set aside across the nation, and even beyond, to enhance the relationship between law enforcement and citizens in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.
There were free hot dogs (grilled by Town Manager Pete Peters and Vinton Police Lt. Glenn Austin), snow cones, drinks, and ice cream, along with free bike helmets, pencils, pens, coloring books, gun locks, and more.
There was a bouncy house and a sidewalk chalk station. Crime dogs McGruff and Scruff mingled with the crowd and posed for photos with children and families. There was literature on the programs offered by the Vinton Police for children, emphasizing child safety, how to reach 911, how to talk to strangers, bullying, and Internet safety.
The evening included visits from other local law enforcement agencies—the U. S. Marshal’s Service with Marshal Tom Foster (Vinton’s former police chief), and the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Department with Sheriff Eric Orange and their Eagle Mascot.
Vinton Girl Scout Troop 94, led by Allie Rourke, stopped by to deliver treats to the Vinton Police Department—jars filled with donut holes, labeled “We ‘Donut’ Know What We’d Have Done Without You.” Elevation Church distributed masks to first responders who attended.
Vinton Moose Lodge 1121, represented by President Ricky Spradlin and Vice President Greg Boitnott, made a first-time presentation to the Vinton Police of “Tommy the Moose” stuffed animals, which will be placed in Vinton Police vehicles for children involved in various traumatic situations. The “Tommy the Moose” program aids in helping children overcome fears and anxiety during times of stress.
The Moose is an international organization dedicated to “caring for young and old, bringing communities together and celebrating life.”
The stuffed animal program is one of many community service projects undertaken by the Moose, whose motto is “Moose Care; Moose Share.” It is also the primary supporter of Special Olympics softball and its nationwide tournament each year.
Vinton Police Chief Fabricio Drumond thanked the Moose for the donation of dozens of the Tommy Moose stuffed animals, and all of the Moose contributions to the Vinton community, saying he looks forward to working with the Moose in more projects.
“We are blessed to have this relationship,” said Drumond.
Moose Dale Barker said that the organization is happy to support the community on National Night Out and wants to build off the National Night Out presentation.
The welfare of children and youth has always been a main focus of the Moose fraternity. The organization operates Mooseheart Child City and School, a 1,000-acre campus near Chicago to care for children and teens in need. Moose also established Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, Fla., to care for the elderly.
The Moose has partnered with the Virginia-based Safe Surfin’ Foundation to promote Internet safety for children. The group has expanded its program to furnish law enforcement with computer equipment to pursue Internet predators, along with ballistic vests to protect officers.
The organization is a strong proponent of the EZ Child ID program which provides parents with an electronic file of personal information, electronic fingerprints, photographs, and a video file of their children, readily available to law enforcement if a child is lost or abducted.
The local Moose Lodge hopes to add the EZ Child ID program to next year’s National Night Out event.
The Moose were also a big part of the success of this past year’s highly successful and acclaimed Christmas Crawl, which replaced the annual Vinton Christmas Parade due to the pandemic. Members of the Moose Lodge and the “Sassy Sisters of the Moose” partnered with the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce to decorate and man a giant sleigh (with Mr. and Mrs. Santa and their elves), pulled through the streets of Vinton to distribute gifts to children throughout the town.
The Sassy Sisters have sponsored other community service events including providing Thanksgiving dinners for struggling families, collecting food for the Soup for Seniors campaign, and are currently assembling Goodie Bags of back-to-school supplies for area teachers. On October 21, they will be hosting a “Drive-In” blood drive at the Moose Lodge, open to the public.
Moose Lodge 1121 and the Sassy Sisters plan to partner with Roanoke County Schools for their annual Breakfast with Santa event for special education students, preschool through high school on December 3. That event is one of many held in their banquet hall for the benefit of the community.
The Vinton Moose Family Center 1121 was chartered on January 3, 1961, and recently celebrated the 60th anniversary.
National Night Out was founded in 1984. The first annual National Night Out involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states. This year, it was estimated that over 30 million participants would take part in National Night Out across 16,000 communities from all fifty states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide. In Virginia, 128 cities and towns signed up to participate this year.
Chief Drumond, many Vinton Police officers, Vinton Town Council members Mayor Brad Grose, Vice Mayor Sabrina McCarty, and Council members Laurie Mullins, Mike Stovall, and Keith Liles, and Phil North from the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors were on hand to talk informally with citizens. Council cancelled the first August meeting to attend the annual event. Most members of the Town of Vinton Leadership Team were present as well.
There was a great turnout for the 2021 National Night Out event in Vinton. The parking lot was full. The Vinton Police, with their community policing philosophy, are viewed by residents and town leaders as a great asset to the town, with their countless contributions and services to the public and their visible presence at virtually every town event.