When Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt, deputies and other law environment personnel arrived at the South Meadows subdivision on Saturday, Debbie Townsend was delighted.


She, her daughter and two grandsons welcomed the officers and fire department staffers for National Night Out at the community pool.


Such events, held throughout the country, bring residents together to socialize and talk with law enforcement personnel.


“It was very exciting and fun to come and see so many (officers) here,” Townsend said. “It was great for the kids to see them and get acquainted ... so they won't be afraid to go up to them if they're ever needed.”


National Night Out was established in 1984 and now is found in 18,000 communities, said Sheriff's Department Sgt. Jason Feemster. The department joins such events in August each year.


South Meadows' home association board requested the officers' participation earlier this year – led by resident Kirk Hildebrand, a Sheriff's Department school resource officer at Ridge Spring-Monetta High School. He credited Target and other stores for their support; providing items for fundraiser drawings.


“We raised $150 for Support I,” Hildebrand said. “This means a lot to have the community come out for a good time. It shows we're united against crime.”


Support I is a critical incident stress support organization. The program provides services, funding and training to police fire and EMS crews, said Michael Ford, a North Augusta Public Safety Officer and Support I co-founder.


“We're just happy to be here,” he said. “We've just gotten our second on-site response unit – another trailer we'll be able to use to respond to incidents. We've had outstanding support from the community. That allows us to be able to do this.”


Bill Renfro, a South Meadows association board member, also appreciated that law enforcement officers were so willing to participate.


“They showed us what they have to provide safety for our homes,” Renfro said. “They also had a lot of stuff for the kids today.”


Carl Culpepper and three other members of the New Ellenton Fire Department joined the event.


“It's a great opportunity for us to show where we can help with fire prevention,” he said. “It's great for the kids. They're always good with the fire truck. They love them.”


Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001.