By Sarah Jackson
Special to Sierra News Online
OAKHURST – The mountain community gathered in Old Mill Village Shopping Center Tuesday evening for National Night Out, a collaborative event that started in 1984 as an annual campaign to promote police-community partnership and neighborhood camaraderie.
Eastern Madera County has expanded upon that mission in recent years to make National Night Out one of the highlights of the annual community calendar.
“This started out with just us, CHP, Cal Fire, PG&E, and Sierra Ambulance several years ago. Now, if the community wants to connect with just about any government agency, they can do that here tonight,” Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney said.
“Historically, this has been a great opportunity for neighbors to get to know their local law enforcement officers, and vice versa,” the sheriff added. “If you have a question about services, you’re bound to find the answer here.”
Oakhurst California Highway Patrol Commander Lieutenant Craig Hinch echoed those sentiments, calling the event a “great opportunity for people to get to know the resources, services and programs available to them.”
Lt. Hinch encouraged interested seniors to learn more and participate in the CHP’s Senior Volunteer Program.
“We would like to hold another Senior Volunteer Academy soon, our volunteers really are vital to the success of our mission,” Lt. Hinch said. “They are the face of our department at community events like this, they help us with so many things ranging from traffic control to educational classes and events.”
Those interested in the CHP Senior Volunteer Program can contact Officer Luis Lugo at 559-658-6590.
Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno was also available at this year’s event to speak directly to members of the public.
“I was in trial today, so I was very happy to get here afterward and answer questions,’ Moreno said. “It’s great to get out here and see the community, say hello to the kids and be directly available to the mountain community.”
Several fire engines and a water tender from Cal Fire’s Madera Mariposa and Merced Station as well as Madera County Fire were represented at the event. The fire equipment was a big hit with kids who enjoyed climbing inside and learning more about fire safety.
Madera County Fire is also encouraging volunteer applicants. Anyone interested in volunteering with their local fire department can call 311 for more information.
At Tuesday’s event, PG&E provided a bucket truck which hoisted a large American flag over the festivities, which also included a bounce house, food from Matsumoto Samurai’s Kitchen and Sal’s Tacos, an impaired driving simulating go-kart from Mariposa CHP, CHiPper, face painting, and more.
Also represented at the event:
Central California Blood Center
California Department of Fish & Wildlife
Bass Lake Lions Club
California Rescue Dog Association
Central California Animal Disaster Team
Yosemite Visitors Bureau
US Census 2020
Madera County Clerk Rebecca Martinez
US Army Corps of Engineers
Yosemite Unified School District