Tyler residents partied with their neighbors and police officers in driveways, parking lots and apartment complex clubhouses Tuesday.
Over 70 block parties took place throughout the city during the annual Texans Against Crime celebration. The parties are meant to strengthen relationships between the community and law enforcement officers.
The Hiway 80 Rescue Mission provided pizza, snow cones, cake, bounce houses and outdoor games for neighborhood children. Their block party gave nearby residents a chance to get to know the agency's staff and who they serve. The agency took the time to pass out information and answer questions about their shelter and program options in their Longview facilities.
"This is a chance for us to build a relationship with our neighbors and get to know them better," said Gateway to Hope director Dawn Moltzan. "Most people don't know we have a presence in Tyler. We just want the neighborhood to know we are here and we work with the homeless in Tyler and help them with their challenges."
Jessica Wilson and her husband decided it was time to get their 3-year-old son Cortez off of the computer and outside for some fresh air. The young family walked a few blocks from their home near Valentine Street to the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission Gateway to Hope for some pizza and to let their son play on the bounce houses and inflatable slide.
"We got a flier on our door about the block party and decided to take a walk and see what it was all about," Ms. Wilson said. "It was a good opportunity to take him out to play."
A little less than half a mile away, hundreds gathered in the parking lot of the city of Tyler Municipal Court for the annual Texas Night Out Block Party.
Court Administrator Nicole Johnson teamed up city officials and community organizations to offer face painting, a bounce house, games and music.
The ETMC air ambulance and a Tyler Fire Department fire truck were parked in the parking lot near Gentry Parkway. The block party gave kids the opportunity to climb into and explore the vehicles with the help of first responders.
Kids lined up for the orange Home Depot aprons and supplies to build their own tool box. They took their turn hammering nails into the pre-drilled holes of their projects and decorated their boxes with stickers when they were ready to put it in their bag and move on to another activity. They made their way through the different stations for free food, candy and giveaways.
Mario Delgado, 9, of Tyler, said he enjoyed spinning the wheel and winning a Frisbee.
Many of the young ladies in attendance made their way to the I Am Beautiful Movement table for pink boas to wear around their necks and to get their hands stamped with Toyia Jordan's “You Are Beautiful” stamp.
"This is a way for me to give back," Ms. Jordan said. "I love interacting with kids, especially young girls, and this is a way to help build self esteem and confidence."
Across town, Ms. Josephine Hayden and other members of the Butler College neighborhood gathered at the Greater Shiloh Baptist Church for pulled pork sandwiches, hamburgers and even the opportunity to get a flu shot from NET Health.
Tyler Police Community Response Officer Darrell Gardner went to eight block parties in his beat Tuesday, including the event at the Shiloh Baptist Church.
"It's a busy night," he said. "But it's worth it for everyone to get out and see each other."
Butler College Community Services Organization President Donald Sanders was elated with the turnout in the church parking lot.
"The Butler County Community Organization has been striving and surviving for over 30 years," Sanders said. "We are working hard to keep our community inviting to others. We are always elated to see, socialize and have fellowship with our new neighbors. It's important for everyone to get together and get to know each other."