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Gresham, Rockwood neighborhoods bring community together with BBQs, games, fun

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - One of the first kids to play on the new structure at Kirk Park during National Night Out.  A whole gaggle of Rockwood kids laughed, splashed and played the summer night away during a series of community events that brought together all the neighborhoods across East Multnomah County.

For Kurenda Boyd, and her five children, it was a chance to have some safe fun together while exploring the Downtown Rockwood Plaza for the first time.

"We have never been to the plaza before. The kids seem to like it," she said, watching as they ran giggling through the Splash Pad. "We love that we can walk the few blocks to get here."

The Boyd family were enjoying a part of their community they had never visited before, despite living a short jaunt away. That is the power of National Night Out, a community-wide event that ran Tuesday, Aug. 2, organized by the many Neighborhood Associations across town. The evening was filled with parties in plazas, parks, cul-de-sacs and driveways. The idea was to strengthen community spirit, heighten crime prevention awareness, demonstrate the unity between neighborhoods and emergency responders, and create a fun outing for families like the Boyds.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Lt. Jeff Miller was one of the officers hanging out the National Night Out gathering at the Rockwood Market Hall.  "National Night Out brings the community together," said Michael Gonzales, Gresham neighborhood and community enhancement manager. "It brings first responders and neighbors together under positive circumstances in a stress-free environment with a goal of working together to create a safer and more resilient community."

"The firefighters and officers are our honored guests," he added.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Kids played at the Downtown Rockwood plaza Tuesday evening, Aug. 2.  The cornerstone gathering was hosted by the Rockwood Neighborhood and city of Gresham at the Rockwood Market Hall, 18535 S.E. Stark St. There were games; free ice cream courtesy Gresham officers and firefighters, who sponsored The Mobile Scoop Shop to set up shop; special deals from the restaurants and businesses at the Rockwood Market Hall; the first day the Rockwood Splash Pad was turned on after construction delays; and more.

"One of our goals hosting here was to get more eyes on Downtown Rockwood and help activate the Market Hall," Gonzales said.

Perhaps the most popular of those honored attendees was K9 Officer Tagg, who serves as the Gresham Police comfort dog. He excitedly roamed the plaza to get ear scratches, investigate the fountain, and pass out his new stickers.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham K9 Officer Tagg visited with kids at Downtown Rockwood.  "Tagg loves to meet all the kids," said Officer Chris Anderson

Up the road about 75 neighbors took a break from an outdoor barbecue to officially dedicate a new playground at Kirk Park, 1087 N.E. 188th Ave.

Spurred by the North Gresham Neighborhood Association, and supported by the city and many sponsor organizations, the new series of structures give kids a safe place to play.

"We want to recognize many people, including former Councilors Jerry Hinton and Kirk French — they were the cornerstones behind this," said Mike Elston, president of the North Gresham Neighborhood Association.

All of it began years ago when a young, single mother asked the Neighborhood Association why there wasn't any play equipment. In 2019 funding for the project began in earnest. City employees secured grants, while Pella Windows & Doors, Nike Community Impact Fund, Wells Fargo, and neighbor Joan Albertson all made significant financial contributions.

The ribbon cutting Tuesday evening on National Night Out was the perfect opportunity for kids to be present and christen the structures with beaming smiles and laughter.

"Today is about lifting the spirit of the community," Gonzales said.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Neighborhood Associations across Gresham hosted National Night Out gatherings Tuesday evening, Aug. 2.

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