Pleasant Hills gears up for National Night Out
The Pleasant Hills community will once again head outside for a night of neighborhood block parties and to say “Thank You” to first responders from across the region who protect them every day.
The borough will celebrate National Night Out for its 25th year on July 30, with a parade of police, fire and EMS vehicles rolling through roughly 15 miles of road, with sirens blaring and horns honking.
Residents, who often host parties in their yards, line the streets each year. Many hold up signs or American flags to thank the first responders, said police Chief Brian Finnerty.
As many as 100 vehicles will parade through many of the borough’s streets, he said. The procession starts on Audrey Drive, behind the Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m. and runs for about one hour and 20 minutes.
Roughly 25 neighborhoods each year register block parties with the police department.
“It’s a way to get the residents together, to get to know your neighbor,” Finnerty said.
It also shows the community that the first responders are there for them, he said.
“You can call us, rely on us, someone will help you,” Finnerty said.
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign through the National Association of Town Watch meant to bolster police/community relations.
Pleasant Hills traditionally has hosted the event one week prior to the national night so first responders from other regions can join in the event. First responders come from as close as Whitehall and Baldwin and as far as West View to join in the parade. Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company and Baldwin EMS partake and the Pleasant Hills road crew even gets in on the fun.
When residents register their block party with the Pleasant Hills Police Department, an officer will stop by with goodies for the kids and to meet the people face-to-face.
Pleasant Hills has hosted the event all but one of the last 26 years. In 2015, National Night Out took a hiatus as Old Clairton Road, a main thoroughfare through the borough, was under construction.
Bob Timmins, who has lived on Nantucket Drive since 1983, recalls the early years, where his neighborhood would close down the street and put grills and tables in the center of the road for a true block party before the parade passed.
Over the years, the festivities on Nantucket have migrated to people’s yards. They go all out. For two years, about a decade ago, Timmins set off Pennsylvania legal fireworks in his driveway as part of the celebration.
Timmins estimates there are at least four parties on his street that night. They’re hosted in various neighbor’s yards.
Last year, he and his wife had 82 people in their driveway for a potluck dinner. People always watch the clock to make sure they don’t miss the procession.
“It’s pretty neat,” Timmins said. “It’s a celebration of the community. It’s a chance to get together with your neighbors.”
Patty Komar, who has lived on Ben Til Drive for 28 years, says her neighbors already are close. But National Night Out gives them a chance to actually sit down, talk and catch up on life.
“We love it,” she said.
In recent years, her family comes over for dinner. Then, they join the neighbors, who crowd their front lawns.
They know some of the first responders driving by, which makes it even more meaningful.
Both Timmins and Komar recognize that this is something other communities don’t do. That makes Pleasant Hills special, they say.
“Everybody should do this,” Timmins said.