NORMAN — The cool October evening was the perfect setting for a neighborly get-together on Vanessa Drive. Teresa and Irl Rhynes greeted old and new friends to the yard party, chatting as they laid out a table of snacks and finger foods while the Rhynes’ great mastiff lounged on the yard.
The Rhynes were hosting the event in celebration of National Night Out.
“This is about our fifth year,” Teresa Rhynes said.
The couple started hosting the annual get-togethers as a way to bring neighbors together and get them involved.
Maryann Baughman talked as she stirred dipped and filled bowls with chips.
Teresa is the leader of the pack,” Baughman said. “When we’re going somewhere, we like to tell someone where we’re going.”
When someone is out of town, neighbors watch each others’ houses, Teresa Rhynes said. Sharing information about what’s going on is part of how they feel safe and secure.
“We’re a pretty nice little neighborhood,” Rhynes said. “We don’t have any problems, normally.”
Still, there was an incident following the last home football game, and police were called on a man who forced his way into a house to use the bathroom.
As the evening progressed, Norman firefighters from nearby Station No. 9 — the newest fire house in Norman — stopped by. The firefighters introduced themselves and let Asher Adams, 2, and Owen Woods, also 2, touch the fire truck and ring the bell.
“Kids like the trucks,” firefighter Casey Elliott said. “We try to do prevention stuff in the schools.”
Elliott said introducing themselves to children and letting children see firefighters in full gear helps them not be frightened in an emergency situation.
“You don’t want kids to hide from you,” Elliott said.
Norman police officers also stopped by and chatted with neighbors about their concerns. Despite some serious talk about safety issues, most of the banter was light-hearted and friendly, allowing neighbors to get comfortable with the people who protect and serve their community.
An officer from the Norman Animal Welfare stopped by to talk about the city’s requirement for pet licensing.
Like the firefighters and police, he also fielded questions and listened to residents’ ideas and opinions, creating a dialogue and breaking down barriers of perception.