Today I spoke with Matt Peskin, the Executive Director of the National Association of Town Watch/National Night Out.
National Night Out (NNO) is a national-community building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships. National Night Out culminates annually on the first Tuesday of August and enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Started right here, locally in the Lower Merion Township Community, in Wynnewood PA. Here is the story of NNO, the mastermind behind it all, and it’s vision for the future.
1. Can you give us a little background of how National Night Out started and has evolved?
Sure! I spent several years (1970-1980) volunteering for the Lower Merion Community Watch Program. During this time, I helped to patrol my neighborhood and eventually introduced the program’s newsletter which became a representation of the success that took place within the organization and the volunteer work put forth by over a thousand neighbors. I started to reach out to surrounding communities for assistance and this was my “aha: moment. I noticed hundreds of these local groups existed with no shared platform to connect.
In 1981 I founded the National Association of Town Watch which aimed to provide community watch groups the necessary information, resources and assets to stay informed and involved in the community. Neighbors and local law enforcement across the nation supported the association as it continued to grow.
In 1984 NATW Inc. introduced the National Night Out program. The first annual National Night Out involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states. Neighborhoods across the nation began to host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and more. Now, in our 36th year, we have connected with 16,000 communities and are excited for continued to grow in the years to come!
2. As the Executive Director, what is your main role in the operations of the business?
So, there is a lot of moving parts: maintaining, following up, spreading the idea, and keeping it interesting. We work with about 16,000 communities so a large part of that is connecting. Another large part of the job is funding. Because there is no federal funding it is all private corporate sponsorship so building the relationship with extremely generous contributors and sponsors is important. Overall, making sure its active, funded, and fun for all is my main role.
3. What is your favorite part of the job?
On National Night Out, that night, 10PM, I like to look at what is going on at other parts of the city and state and country. The hashtag #nationalnightout out trends and is the biggest hashtag of the day so I enjoy following the impact it is having all over the United States.
4. I know you started this in 1981 – what if any advice would you give to your younger self?
There are times when there was no money and no sponsors and you feel pretty down. You can’t allow yourself to listen to people who say it isn’t going to work. You can’t quit because you have a bad day or loose a customer. If you have a dream about something you can do it, as long as you hang in there. And remember to surround yourself with those who support you.
5. I know you’re a family guy, recently became a grandpa, enjoy the flyers with your son, and vacation at the beach…What are some other hobbies you enjoy outside of work?
I’ve played baseball since a little kid and started Lower Merion Hockey Team. I played at Penn State and have played rec league in the city. I love hockey and I love sports. And you mentioned family, they are everything to me.
6. What is the dream/end game of NNO? What is next for the future?
My goal would be to have NNO recognized as the first legal holiday in August! But in all seriousness, the annual event is producing a lot of great things: community involvement, recognition of the incredible service men/women, and a night out. So our goal would be that everyone knows when this night occurs, and what happens! Pretty much to keep spreading the powerful impact it is having on our society.
7. I know Shaq was at NNO last year! Anything we should know about this years NNO?
All I can say is…there are some things in the works…
For more information, specific location details, and to register for this free event go to: https://natw.org/
Hope to see you out supporting your local community this Tuesday August 6th, for National Night Out!
Would you like your community to be involved? Please comment below!