National Night Out — a partnership between police and community groups — provided food, information, fun and resources to Hamburg and Shoemakersville area families at Shoemakersville Park on Aug. 6.
This is the 36th year for the nationwide event, but the first time held in Shoemakersville as a combined effort of Hamburg and Shoemakersville.
“I’m the Shoemakersville Mayor only a year and a half now,” said Mayor Dustin Remp. “I’m a correction officer for 24 years and I am a veteran so when I became mayor I wanted to have a lot more events in our area. And this is one that is near and dear to my heart and I decided to get the community together to rally around it.”
Remp approached Hamburg Mayor George Holmes about co-hosting and the two worked together to recruit various organizations including local law enforcement, emergency services and business sponsors.
Remp was particularly proud of introducing Hometown Heroes signs for Shoemakersville at the event. These will be similar to signs hung in Hamburg and other communities and will spotlight service members in their hometown.
“It’s for anyone that resides in the area or has a family member that was in a foreign incident: Gulf War, veteran, whatever,” said Remp, adding that 90 poles have been approved to hang the signs and that applications will be accepted through the winter months.
He anticipates the first sign will be hung in the early spring. The Shoemakersville signs will incorporate the color green, in honor of the local little league team.
During the Shoemakersille and Hamburg Night Out, applications were also taken for a new Junior Council Person program. Remp says the idea is to get youth involved in local government and he will select one or two applicants to become honorary board members in Shoemakersville.
Information about Hometown Heroes and JCP were available at the main table at National Night Out at the park, along with sign ups for a community watch program in Shoemakersville. Remp noted this is important as Shoemakersville no longer has a local police force and relies on state police coverage. He will serve as director for the community watch and is looking for block and street captains.
Shoemakersville Fire Company displayed several trucks at the park that night. At an adjacent table, volunteer members handed out black plastic fire fighter hats to eager children.
Nearby, flashing lights drew visitors to vehicles from Northern Berks Emergency Medical Service, Tilden Township Police, Hamburg Police and the Berks County Sheriff.
Officers handed out freebies, including pencils and badge stickers, to youngsters while chatting with adults. A big draw in this area was K9 Rizzo and his handlers, Deputy Sarah Feltz and Deputy Zach Smith.
From the park’s grand stand, Remp welcomed the crowd and acknowledged the police and service departments in attendance. His daughter, Delani Remp, a junior this fall at Hamburg Area High School, sang the "National Anthem." Members of Shoemakersville Cub Scout Pack 163 led the color guard and pledge to the American Flag.
Holmes also welcomed the crowd.
“This was just an idea a few months ago,” he said, then gestured to Mayor Remp beside him. “But he really pushed and made it happen.”
Members of Hamburg Bible Church offered cold drinks and also handed out “Pray for Our Police” yard signs to attendees. One person taking their sign home was Kim Giambrone of Tilden Township. She came that evening after research about community watch groups led her to information about National Night Out.
“It’s a way to build better relationships between the residents and the police,” Giambrone said.
Glad she came out to National Night Out, she said, “I got to meet and speak with local police from my township. There are good avenues, the doors for open communication are in place.”
The park was crowded, with groups of families and friends stopping to chat before checking displays from Keystone Military Families, Diakon Adoption/Foster Social Ministries and the Council on Chemical Abuse.
A popular stop was the Venom Institute, where children could touch large turtle shells and see live creatures including a boa constrictor draped across a handler’s neck.
Nearby, children jumped in a bounce house while others honed skills at a skate board park set up by Fresh Life.
Adults stopped by the County of Berks Election Services table, where representatives gave demonstrations of new voting machines.
Ali and Steve Haines staffed a book table, a natural extension of the Shoey Little Free Library their family built and opened on Main Street two years ago. At National Night Out, they accepted book donations and encouraged all walking by to grab a free book or two.
“I thought this was a great opportunity to get more books into more hands,” Ali said.
Other sponsors of the Shoemakersville and Hamburg Night Out included RTC Direct Mailing, Fleetwood Bank, Ollie’s Tavern, Kuzan’s Hardware, Dee Dee’s Diner, Ulrich’s Motorcycles, 1787 Brewing Company, Wiring By Wall, State Farm, Kantner’s Tire, Folk Paving, Cousin’s Pub, Pizza Como, Leibensperger’s Funeral Homes, Hamburg VFW, Westy Bar & Grill, Freedom Toyota, Tom Schaeffer’s RV, Necessities New & Used Shop, Lamar Advertising, Gourmand Café, Sweet Ride Ice Cream, Dutch Oven Food Truck and Fiore’s Restaurant.