By Keysha Drexel
The city of Vestavia Hills is hosting its fourth annual National Night Out event next week.
The Vestavia Hills police and fire departments are teaming up with the Help the Hills organization and inviting residents out to Shades Mountain Baptist Church on Oct. 7 for an evening of community networking, food and family-friendly activities.
Now in its 31st year nationwide, the National Night Out event is aimed at providing residents with a chance to meet the first responders who serve in their communities.
“The police officers and the firefighters are able to meet people in the community so folks will see that they are good people with good intentions,” City Councilman Steve Ammons said. “It gives citizens a chance to see all that is being done to protect them.”
Many cities hold their National Night Out events in August, but Ammons said Vestavia Hills has for the last few years opted to hold the event after the weather cools down a bit.
“The first year we did it, it was in August and it was 98 degrees with 98 percent humidity,” Ammons said. “But we still had a good turnout–about 300 people showed up that first year.”
Last year’s event in October attracted about 1,200 people, Ammons said.
“The fall has proven to be a better time to get more people to come out,” he said.
Ammons said the theme of this year’s event, All for One, reflects the Vestavia Hills community’s approach to fighting a growing drug problem among teens and young adults.
“We live in a community that is not normally seen as the kind of place that would have a drug problem,” Ammons said. “But we all know there’s a problem, and it’s something that we all have to work together to solve.”
To that end, Ammons said, this year’s National Night Out will also focus on “a three-pronged approach to the drug problem that involves prevention, enforcement and support.”
At the National Night Out event, the Vestavia Hills Police Department will also give residents a chance to turn in their unwanted prescription drugs.
The city already collects unused and unwanted prescription drugs for disposal at a drop-box at City Hall, Ammons said.
“The Vestavia Hills Sunrise Rotary Club just got a grant through Rotary International, and we’re going to buy two more unwanted prescription drug drop-boxes with that,” Ammons said. “And with the help of the generous sponsors of National Night Out, we’re going to buy two more, and we’re giving one to Hoover and one to Mountain Brook.”
The city also each year partners with the Drug Enforcement Administration for National Prescription Drug Take-back Day.
“From all accounts, people are using the drop-boxes, and that’s encouraging. We just want to remind people that this service is available and how dangerous it is to leave prescription drugs in a place where they can fall into the wrong hands,” Ammons said.
This year’s National Night Out event will kick off with the landing of the Children’s of Alabama CAREFlight Helicopter, Ammons said.
“We’ll also have the hot air balloon out there again this year, and there will be inflatable bounce houses and obstacle courses for the kids, and students from the Samford (University) School of Pharmacy will be there to answer questions about medications,” Ammons said.
There will be a dedication wall at the event where people can post hopeful thoughts for those fighting drug addiction or a remembrance for someone who lost their lives to drugs, Ammons said.
The event will include food from Moe’s Original BBQ, Mudtown and The Ridge along with hotdogs prepared by members of the Vestavia Hills Sunrise Rotary Club and cool treats from Bruster’s Real Ice Cream.
The All for One National Night Out celebration kicks off at 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, 2017 Columbiana Road.