Hot dogs, cookies and community engagement.
Those were some of the key ingredients behind a successful neighborhood cleanup May 30 led by the Garden Grove PD and Fire Department but including personnel from several city departments.
Dozens of residents who live in the shadows of the Christ Cathedral — in the U-shaped neighborhood of Newport Avenue, Laguna Street and Balboa Avenue — spent several hours Saturday disposing of unwanted items in huge trash bins and interacting with cops, firefighters and employees from several city departments.
Betty Estrada was there with her four children — ages 2, 4, 8 and 10.
“They had a great time,” Estrada said. “They loved it. My 4-year-old son, Eric, now has in his head that he wants to be a police officer.”
For several hours, Garden Grove Police Chief Todd Elgin grilled hot dogs.
“Everybody’s out here working hard to try to create this atmosphere of unity, this atmosphere of cleanup — to take care of this neighborhood,” Elgin said. “It’s a very exciting day. And also from a police perspective, let’s face it: This is an opportunity for us to connect with the community, and that’s important given the type of business we’re in.”
The event, organized by the Garden Grove Neighborhood Improvement Committee, featured a fire engine for touring and a display of firearms used by police officers.
“The kids seem to be having a great time,” Elgin said. “And hot dogs and cookies seem to be the fare of the day.”
Residents were able to meet recently installed Garden Grove Fire Chief Tom Schultz.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get engaged with the community,” he said. “The kids see the police officers and the fire engines and they get engaged, and this event gives us the opportunity to provide safety tips and build trust within the community. It’s just a real positive event, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
Assistant City Manager Susan Emery called the cleanup a tremendous success, adding that in addition to the police and fire departments, residents could mix it up with employees in community services, public works, community development and other departments.
“They (residents) get to see the police department in a way where they feel the police care about them,” Emery said. “They (officers) are in their neighborhood educating them and interacting with them as people one on one — not in a hostile or more negative environment. This helps residents see the police a little differently.”
Estrada can’t wait for the next neighborhood cleanup.
“They should have more events like this for the kids — for the community — because a lot of kids live around here,” she said. “This helps the kids stay focused.
“We need more things like this to happen around the neighborhood.”