The La Plata Police Department, along with multiple partnering organizations and agencies, hosted its Seventh Annual Kent Avenue Corridor Block Party on Aug. 22.
Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the event was held in a drive-thru/walk-thru style. In past years, Caroline Drive was closed and both sides of the streets were lined up with pop-up tents, according to Carl Schinner, chief of police.
Schinner said the tents were occupied by the police department’s community partners, each bringing a unique resource to the community. In prior years, Caroline Park itself was set up with a large inflatable 40-foot water slide, large obstacle course and bounce house.
Police officers cooked and served hot dogs, chips and water. Police department explorers, young people between the ages of 14 and 20 who are interested in law enforcement, normally would make snow cones, and cornhole would be played by residents and officers.
“We typically have over 400 residents who attend, with over two dozen partners,” Schinner said. “This year, we knew the community need was still great.”
The department, working with over a dozen partners this year, distributed fresh and staple food items, school supplies, diapers and formula, and dog and cat food to local residents in the setting mandated by the pandemic. Officers and explorers also cooked and served 300 hot dogs and handed out bags of chips, bags of cookies and bottled water.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police shared a booth and distributed book bags, frisbees and mini footballs, according to Diane Richardson, sheriff’s office spokeswoman. Richardson said items were distributed to each car that drove through the block party, plus officers answered any law enforcement questions people asked.
“The community has always responded in a positive way to the block party,” Schinner said. “Each year it has grown larger with more local partners participating. This year over 225 boxes of fresh food was given to those who had a need.”
The block party is the police department’s largest annual community policing event. Schinner said the police department handles the planning of the event, provides the food and extra tents and chairs for those who do not have them.
“Although we handle the logistics, our partners are the real difference makers,” Schinner said. “Providing medical screenings, food, school supplies, information and lots of other resources and outreach.”
Sandy Washington, executive director of LifeStyles of Maryland, Inc., said the organization has participated in the event since its inception. She said LifeStyles set up a station providing 250 produce boxes with onions, carrots, celery and fruit from Maryland Food Bank, along with other groceries that were available.
“This year was very different,” Washington said. “Not being able to have the contact that we usually have with the residents made it more difficult to discuss other needs that they may have.”
Washington said the community turnout was not as many as past years, due to limited marketing availability caused by the pandemic. She said many residents did not know the event was taking place and in previous years, live music and entertainment were helpful with engaging the public.
“Anytime you can engage with the community and get much needed supplies to families, it is a success,” Washington said. “Also, in this day and age law enforcement engagement in a positive way makes a tremendous difference.”
Washington said every day LifeStyles engages with the community and other communities across Southern Maryland. LifeStyles’ plans are to continue engagement, listen to and educate the communities.
“These are challenging times,” Washington said. “We all need each other in various ways.”
Schinner said the input from the partners and community members was positive and all partners that participated this year plan to return in 2021. He said the department will continue working with partners who attended, as well as those who were not able to attend due to the pandemic.
“All in all, needs are met, information is provided and there is a lot of positive interaction between the local community, our partners and our police officers,” Schinner said. “We’re looking forward to 2021.”