A small group of concerned citizens gathered at the Aurora Heights Church in Nikiski Saturday to meet their neighbors and talk about creating a safer community.
"The more you get to know who your neighbors are the more you get to know who aren't," said Bud Sexton, an organizer of the Nikiski Neighborhood Watch Program meeting. "It's a real deterrent to crimes taking place."
Sexton, who recently moved his family to Alaska from California, is a youth pastor at the Aurora Heights Church. He said that his neighbors in California would watch out for each other and keep an eye on things in the area.
"Everyone knew each other and would borrow eggs or flour or sugar from one another," he said. "It was the way neighborhoods used to be."
That's the sort of thing he's hoping to accomplish with regular Nikiski Neighborhood Watch meetings -- a sense of community.
"There's a negative perception sometimes about Nikiski. But some of the people we came into contact with were the exact opposite of that," he said.
By getting to know one another, Sexton said, the community will be better prepared in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.
At the meeting, there was information about the local Crimestoppers group and other emergency management brochures. This Nikiski neighborhood watch program is still getting started and has yet to team up with local law enforcement agencies for a more organized approach.
Christina Mitchell also helped organize the meeting Saturday, complete with spaghetti, salad and hobnobbing.
For her, the meetings are about safety.
"We have young children and when they go outside we want them to be safe," said Mitchell, who has lived in the area for three years.
Sharon Burdick does not know her neighbors. She's lived in Nikiski for 43 years and said she wishes there was better police coverage of the area.
"Nobody really neighbors much anymore," she said.
The lack of a neighborhood feeling is something that multiple people commented on at the meeting. Barely anyone there knew who lived in the five houses closest to them.
Being neighborly means having people over for coffee, Burdick said, and helping one another out if there's some trouble.
But no one talks at the side fence anymore or shares chocolate chip cookie recipes.
One attendee offered a solution to this.
"One way to improve the neighborhood is to consider joining the militia," said Dale Heckert.
This comment was met with some quizzical looks, but Heckert explained his position.
"It's more than just guns, it's public safety," he said.
Penny Alberty, another attendee and Nikiski resident, said she wished the militia had a different name.
The militia is about forward thought and preparing for an emergency or natural disaster, Heckert said.
If the Peninsula gets cut off from supply lines, or Mount Redoubt blows again, will the area be prepared, he asked. Is there enough water and food stockpiled for everyone?
These were questions Sexton was interested in discussing, as well.
"In the event of an emergency what do we each have?" Sexton asked the group. Comparing skills to a potluck, he said that everyone could bring something different to the table.
The Nikiksi Neighborhood Watch Program's next meeting will be May 22 at 6 p.m. at a location to be determined.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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