Night to Unite: Party with a purpose

by Joni Astrup
Associate Editor
Eight-year-old twins Kaytlin and Makenzie Peterson looked over the line of gleaming classic cars, one of a number of attractions at Evans Meadows Apartments’ Night to Unite party Tuesday in Elk River.

Kaytlin Peterson (right) and her twin sister, Makenzie, checked out the classic cars during the Evans Meadows Apartments’ Night to Unite party.

Their grandmother, Lynn Kocholek, was nearby. She said this is the seventh year that the twins have been attending the neighborhood party. The bash featured a number of kid-friendly attractions, including a bounce house, a popcorn truck and a slip-and-slide water feature.
For Kocholek, Night to Unite is a chance to see neighbors in an enjoyable setting.
“They always have a little something for everybody,” she said.
Larry Klein, who manages the Evans Meadows complex at 341 Evans Ave., said their party went great. They served hot dogs and all the fixings to 458 people.
People especially loved the classic cars brought there by the Tri River Rodders Car Club of Elk River, said Klein, who is a member of the club. A micro sprint car that Jack Berger, of Lake Elmo, races at Princeton was another featured attraction.
The Evans Meadows party was one of 50 Night to Unite events going on Tuesday, Aug. 1, in Elk River. That’s up from 40 a year ago, according to Linda Canton, crime prevention specialist with the Elk River Police Department.
They are designed to strengthen neighborhoods, heighten crime prevention awareness and bolster police-community partnerships. Police officers, firefighters and city officials visit many of the parties.
“Night to Unite is an amazing program,” Elk River Police Sgt. Dan Block told the Evans Meadows group. “Take this time to get to know your neighbors.”

Sgt. Dan Block talked to residents at the Evans Meadows Apartments’ Night to Unite party in Elk River.

He was there with Elk River Police Reserve Capt. Eric Newlin and Elk River Senior Planner Chris Leeseberg. They passed out informational fliers about crime statistics and police department programs and talked to party goers. They were joined later by several Elk River firefighters.
Block said in an apartment complex the size of Evans Meadows, people may not know who lives in the building next to them. Night to Unite gets people out to meet one another.
Block also encouraged people at the party to not hesitate to call police.
He said he’s often heard people say they thought something was up, but they didn’t want to call 911 and bother the police.
“You can call any time,” he said. “We’re here for you. We’d much rather solve a problem, or cut a problem off, before it becomes big.”
Canton, meanwhile, said Night to Unite events go on in many cities on the first Tuesday of August.
“We just want to draw the community together,” she said. When neighbors know one another, that enhances safety and adds to a sense of community.
Of the 50 events held in Elk River this year, 15 were new ones, Canton said. The events featured a wide range of activities including a pool party, potlucks, yard games, barbecues and bounce houses.
Canton provides a gift box to each party, thanks to donations from local businesses. This year’s boxes contained items ranging from gift certificates and gym membership vouchers to ice cream scoops and LED light bulbs. Party organizers use the items as prizes at the Night to Unite events.
The parties also are a collection point for the Community Aid Elk River food shelf donations. As of Wednesday, the total stood at 1,086 pounds of food and $425 in cash.
“We still have some neighborhoods that will be dropping off donations, so it will be a record Night to Unite year for donations,” Canton said.

Fast facts about the Elk River Police Department
•The Elk River Police Department has 32 officers on its force.
•The department experienced a 32 percent increase in calls for service during the last two years.
•In 2016, officers were involved in a total of 24,728 incidents.
•There were 475 property damage accidents in Elk River during 2016.
Source: Elk River Police Department

Elk River Police Department statistics
July 15, 2016, to July 15, 2017
Assault……………………………………81
Burglary…………………………………64
Criminal damage to property….100
Motor vehicle tampering………….11
Narcotics……………………………….111
Robbery…………………………………..4
Theft……………………………………204
Theft from motor vehicle…………67
Vehicle theft……………………………17
Source: Elk River Police Department