- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2003

District police and local clergy teamed up to hold the third annual East of the River Safety Awareness Day at the Penn Branch Shopping Center in Southeast yesterday.

The daylong event was designed to provide safety information to children and their families and foster better relations between police and residents.

It kicked off with a gospel performance by the Next Generation Band, who along with other performers entertained a steady stream of people who came out under sunny skies for a day of safety education, hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks.

ADT Security, Greater Southeast Community Hospital, Metro Transit Authority and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America were some of the organizations on hand. They offered tables of literature and brochures for the public to look over and were available for questions.

Metropolitan police fingerprinted and photographed children for their parents’ records in case the children are ever lost or abducted.

The event was sponsored by the Metropolitan Police Department and the East of the River Clergy-Police-Community Partnership.

“This is an outstanding event because it brings the community together and it provides a way to bridge a gap between MPD agencies, the community and the church,” said Harvey Cannon, who emceed the event along with Police Officer Chante Brodie.

“It’s also an opportunity to get the children involved at a young age with the community and the MPD, so they can see the police as their friends,” Mr. Cannon, 45, said.

Police cruisers, fire engines, a vintage metro bus and a police car with the license plate “KIDS1” sat in the parking lot for the children to inspect. Bike helmets and car seats for toddlers were handed out free of charge.

Amanda Burba, who moved to the District six months ago from Indianapolis, said she supports the team effort of the police, clergy and the Southeast community.

“Oftentimes, people think the police are intimidating, but at events like this one you get the opportunity to see that they aren’t,” Ms. Burba, 23, said.

Ms. Burba brought a neighbor’s two children. One of the little boys wore his new bike helmet while the other admired his new identification card, compliments of the District police.

Gregory Dawkins, 30, step master for “Basis: Brothers and Sisters in Step for Christ,” at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in Southeast, said his group has been coming to the event for the past two years and that he wouldn’t have missed the chance to perform.

“There are so many different ways to praise the Lord. Young people may not be into hymnals or spirituals, but they understand rhythm and they enjoy dance and stepping,” he said before his group appeared on stage.

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