Night to Unite: Uniting neighborhoods through community

by Jim Boyle


Elk River police and fire departments  respond to hundreds of calls annually, but one of their favorite calls comes the first Tuesday in August every year.

Kids enjoyed climbing aboard the North Memorial air ambulance at Lions Park. Submitted photos

That’s when they are dispatched to neighborhood block parties for a chance to connect with residents about what’s going on in that particular neighborhood and what residents should be on the lookout for.

Residents — after all — are their eyes and ears in the fight against crime. Some of what they do during Night to Unite is convince people to call when they see something suspicious — especially if after hours.

“There’s not one officer that would bat an eyelash at a suspicious activity call,” said Cheryll Edinger, a crime prevention specialist who heads up the coordination of Night to Unite in Elk River.

Detective Eric Balabon addressed a crowd at a party along Morton Avenue that was attended by nearly 50 people. Submitted photo

This was the 19th year that Elk River has been involved in Night to Unite or the similar program that they used to participate in, called National Night Out.

Sgt. Dan Block said he would rather respond to 100 suspicious activity calls that turn out to be nothing than one call that comes in after the fact when a crime has been committed or something else bad has happened.

Donations from area businesses made it possible for kids to win prizes at their neighborhood parties. Submitted photo

This year there were 33 neighborhood parties plus several larger gatherings at the Elk River Activity Center, Guardian Angels, the Handke Family Center’s Nature Explore Center and Lions Park. Edinger estimates that at least 1,750 came out for this year’s festivities, and many businesses donated prizes to help add to the festive nature.


Frank Blake and Matt Fink enjoyed root beer floats and ice cream at Handke’s Night to Unite event.


“It’s a good way to connect with residents,” she said.





Mary Bratsch Dwyer along with her son, Ben, daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and their twin girls, Natalie and Anna, enjoyed a picnic at the ECFE Nature Explore Center.


Kids tried on helmets, too. Submitted photo