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Mon Yough communities mark National Night Out

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 3:56 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Mark Kapsha offers up four quarters to spring Glassport Crime Watch coordinator Dave Kowalski out of jail, while 9-year-old Ricky Vazquez looks on. Kowalski fell victim to the Kangaroo Court and needed $100 to be set free, which he raised in just a few minutes.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
The local band A Roll of the Dice played at the National Night Out celebration in Glassport on Tuesday evening. The members are Stephen Shriane, Jacob Trunzo and Tyler Walsh.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Folks line up for food at the National Night Out celebration in Glassport on Tuesday evening despite a little rain.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Members of Glassport Citizens Hose Co. No. 1 listen as Margaret Gagorik Gooding sings the National Anthem during Tuesday's National Night Out celebration.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Children play a game of ring toss to win prizes at the National Night Out celebration in the Ninth Ward/Grandview neighborhood in McKeesport.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Tiffany Wampler (right) serves ice cream and snow cones to 7-year-old Kaitlyn Wampler and Bobbi Einhorn at McKeesport's Grandview celebration of National Night Out.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
A friendly game of horseshoes was played by Ghani Green, Mutakkabir Green, 6, Ryan Burtner, 8, Ayden Wallace, 9, and Tyler Wallace, 9, during the National Night Out celebration in the Grandview neighborhood of McKeesport.

McKeesport's Grandview Task Force celebrated its first National Night Out, while surrounding communities marked another year of promoting crime prevention activities and neighborhood camaraderie.

Nearly 200 people filled the grassy lot across from the Grandview Apartments on Tuesday.

“It was better than we expected it to be,” said task force chairman Charles Alter. “We went through 150 hotdogs, 12 large pizzas, cases and cases of water and Turners Tea and Huggies. The kids had a blast. That was the best part. It was a really good turnout. We all live in this neighborhood, and we want to make sure that when our kids are growing up that it's still this same neighborhood.”

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, city council members, Allegheny County officials and representatives of local legislators made an appearance in Grandview.

Alter said city councilors and local businesses donated food and other items to make it a success.

“This was everybody coming together,” Alter said.

Planning for Grandview's event began less than two months ago. Volunteers handed out about 100 fliers. A cleanup day took place on Saturday in preparation for the event.

Resident Elizabeth Leasher moved back to Grandview earlier this year after living in another part of McKeesport. She said she was happy to see National Night Out events in her area.

“It was actually pretty fun,” she said.

Leasher said the only bad part about the celebration was getting drenched by water balloons with her son Josh Leasher, 15, who said it was fun playing with the balloons, and wants to see more games next year.

“I've seen kids from school that I haven't seen for a while,” Josh said.

McKeesport's Fawcett Plan and Haler Heights neighborhoods hosted National Night Out activities, too. All three city neighborhoods featured visits by McKeesport first responders.

National Night Out was introduced by the National Association of Town Watch. The first one took place on Aug. 7, 1984, with 2.5 million Americans across 400 communities in 23 states participating.

Since then it has grown to more than 37.8 million people and 16,124 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.

Glassport celebrated its second National Night Out on Tuesday. It was the first for Cliff LaFever as police chief.

“It was a lot different for me,” he said. “It's hard to describe. It's a great feeling.”

He and other emergency responders were introduced to a crowd of about 300 near the borough building. There were various foods, live entertainment including a performance by New Horizons Majorettes, and prizes given to poster contest winners.

The weather may have affected attendance.

“It didn't rain that bad,” LeFever said. “It was more like a light sprinkle for a little bit. It didn't dampen the festivities.”

“I think it was the same (as last year),” council president Dave Kowalski said. “The turnout was good. I think the rain and the prediction of rain held attendance back, but those who were here had a good time. Everything went well.”

Borough officials went throughout Glassport afterward to see which block had the most blue lights on. Winners of that contest will be announced next week. The winning area receives a free block party.

This was the seventh year for Wilmerding council vice president Sandy Smith as organizer of her borough's National Night Out festivities.

“We're trying to bring our crime watch back this year, so we were hoping to have the community come out,” Smith said. “It's an opportunity for residents to gather and get to know their neighbors, and hopefully draw some interest to crime watch ... Wilmerding is in the process of reinventing itself. We want people to know that Wilmerding is a safe community to come and live and raise families.”

Wilmerding recreation committee provided snacks. East Allegheny Family Center had a booth with information and a children's activity. H&R Block had a booth, as well.

Wilmerding firefighters, North Versailles Township police and Eastern Area Prehospital Services staff made an appearance at Wilmerding Park.

Disc jockey Jimmy Bacco provided music, but less than 120 people showed up to celebrate.

“This year it is a small turnout. I think the threat of rain is what really caused turnout this small,” Smith said.

Resident Diana Lagorga said she attends National Night Out every year.

“I think it's a good thing,” Lagorga said. “It brings people together and gets them out of their houses. A lot of people come out that you don't even know live here. People get to know people. I think it's a nice gathering.”

Lagorga said she volunteered to help serve refreshments on Tuesday because “it makes you feel better for Wilmerding.”

Duquesne Crime Watch encouraged residents to turn on a porch light to show their support for law enforcement.

Port Vue hosted a cookout near the borough building.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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