National Night Out

Left to right: Zavaeion Pettus, Tae Thornton, Kingston Thornton and Ladreviun Grady pose for a photo Tuesday during National Night Out at Covington Recreation Center’s baseball field.

For 36 years, residents of Opelika have come together to celebrate the partnership between police and community at National Night Out.

From 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, locals can join the Opelika Police Department as well as Mayor Gary Fuller once again at Covington Park.

“This is a great community event because Opelika’s a great place to stay and we just want everybody just to come together on this day and celebrate Opelika and people coming together,” said Valenstine Penn, one of the organizers of the event.

Oscar Penn, another organizer of the event, said that as a part of National Night Out they would be honoring the 23 tornado victims who lost their lives in March. A bell will be rung after each victim’s name is recited, he said.

Additionally, William Buechner, former Auburn police officer will be honored. Buechner lost his life in May while serving in the line of duty.

One of the goals of this event is to encourage the community to get to know their police department and promote unity, organizers said.

“We want the people to know who the police chief is, who the captain is, who the mayor is, because we’re all one,” Valenstine said.

The event will include activities such as a cake walk, horse riding, a cookie decorating contest and root beer floats.

This year the event saw an increased interest with more people wanting to be a part of National Night Out, she said.

She already is working toward a new goal for next year’s event and is hoping to set up a scholarship through National Night Out.

“We’re creating an environment where we can invite all of Lee County to come out because we have our county commissioner here, along with our other representatives that are also involved in making a difference in our community as a whole, one Lee County, also as one Opelika,” Oscar said.

Fuller will be giving a presentation to recognize four churches that gave abundantly during the tornado incident, Oscar said, including Nazareth Baptist Church, Providence Baptist Church, Greater Peace Baptist Church and Rising Star Baptist Church.

“We’re doing everything we can to get the churches and the businesses and the schools and all the business owners and everybody in all the different neighborhoods, whether it’s north, south, east or west side of town, everybody to come together,” Police Chief John McEachern said.

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