Hollister families on a ‘Night Out’

Anjelica Navarez, 3, gives a high-five to Hollister Police Officer Carlos Rodriguez after touring his vehicle during the National Night Out event in 2012.

Locals started arriving right at 5 p.m. for Hollister’s National Night Out event Tuesday, a chance for public safety entities and other agencies to share resources geared towards families.

“Though we are alone here in Hollister tonight, we are joined by 31 million people in 15,000 communities for the 29th annual National Night Out,” said San Benito County Sheriff Darren Thompson, during a short greeting to families. “It’s made possible tonight with a Target Corporation grant.”

The local event was held in the Target parking lot, where half a dozen rows of parking stalls were cordoned off with yellow caution tape to set up the resource fair.

Families checked in at a registration table with members of the Sheriff’s Department Explorers volunteers, where they received a raffle ticket. Target volunteers manned the raffle booth where they gave away free frisbees to kids and showed off the raffle items including bicycles, helmets, footballs and more.

This is the second year the sheriff’s department received the grant from Target Corporation to fund the event.

The highlight for many children at the event was the chance to interact with public safety officials while touring some of the vehicles they see around town. They were able to walk through the Sheriff’s Mobile Operations Center, climb onto a fire engine, see the inside of a Hollister Police Department car and sheriff’s car, and check out a corrections bus.

“It’s a chance to make contact with the community, especially for kids,” said Carlos Rodriguez, the gang resource officer with the HPD, of the chance to interact with families in a positive situation.

He said some of the children were apprehensive when they first approached the car.

“But then they put their guard down and they get inquisitive,” he said. “If you do enough of these things, you start to recognize the kids.”

Other agencies also used the event as a chance to share information with local families on fun and safe activities in the community. Hollister Hills, the San Benito County Parks and Recreation Commission, Pinnacles National Monument and De Anza Trail all had representatives sharing low-cost options for family fun in San Benito.

The San Benito County Public Health department representatives shared information on the negative effects of tobacco and about a new child safety seat law that went into effect this year that requires children to be in booster seats until age 8 or until they reach the height of 4’9”.

“Some people said they heard something about it,” said Erika Vallin, a health educator with the child passenger safety program. “I would say 90 percent don’t know.”

Other local resources there included Victim’s Witness, the Youth Alliance, the YMCA, the Family Resource Center, Head Start, Community Solutions and the American Red Cross, among others.

Some of the kids gathered to watch a dance performance by Hollister Kidz Crew or to get their faces painted in between visiting the booths.

Debbie Ruiz, of Community Solutions, said the timing of the event is great since school starts soon.

“With kids going back to school, we can talk about what is a stranger, what is a bully, what are bad touches and good touches,” said Ruiz, who works with victims of sexual assault through the nonprofit. “With budget cuts, we are all working together.”

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