Mission celebrated its 20th National Night Out on Tuesday at Leo Peña Placita in downtown Mission by passing out school supplies to children and offering a full range of local entertainment for those present to enjoy.
Mission Crime Stoppers and the Mission Police Department sponsored the annual event.
The line waiting for the school supplies stretched from east to west on the south side of the placita with hundreds in line. Diane Hernandez, a volunteer with Mission Crime Stoppers, said there were approximately 1500 bags of school supplies for children. The bags contained a spiral notebook, folders, erasers, pencils, colors and other items children would need for school when they return later in the month.
Hernandez said Mission Crime Stoppers works all year long sponsoring events and collecting money to get ready for the event. Hernandez, who has been a member of Crime Stoppers since 2002, said for many years Crime Stoppers sponsored the event on their own before the city decided to get involved. This year, they worked with Romeo Ortega of the Mission Police Department to coordinate the giveaways.
Children who attended were given a ticket and had to stand in line to get the supplies. Parents could not bring the tickets; children receiving the items had to be present. She said children from Mission, La Joya, Alton and other surrounding areas came to get the free school supplies.
Romeo Ortega said the Mission Police Department works with Crime Stoppers and is involved with several events throughout the year, including a Halloween event, a Thanksgiving event and the annual Christmas celebration.
Ortega said funds are raised through a golf tournament held in June, a barbecue and other ways to keep the events successful. Local merchants donate merchandise to be used, including H-E-B that donated up to $2,500 in school supplies to the event. Target and Walmart are also big sponsors for Crime Stoppers events.
Emceed by Oscar Morgain, events kicked off in sweltering heat at 6 p.m. but a light drizzle eventually cooled things down a bit for those who were participating. There was an honor guard from the Mission Police Department who presented the colors. Robin Lewis sang the “Stars Spangled Banner” after presentation of colors. Dignitaries were introduced, including Mission Councilman Armando O’caña, who welcomed everyone on behalf of Mayor Beto Salinas. Councilwoman Jessica Ortega-Ochoa, City Manager Martin Garza and Councilman Ruben Plata were also present to cut the ribbon, kicking off the annual celebration.
In addition, there were representatives from the Precinct No. 3 Constable’s Office, the Mission Fire Department and law enforcement agencies and smaller cities in the Mission area such as Alton, La Joya, Palmhurst, Palmview, Peñitas and Sullivan City.
Ricardo Lopez, superintendent of the Mission Consolidated Independent School District and Virginia Richter, superintendent of the Sharyland Independent School District, each welcomed students from their districts who were participating in events.
Entertainment began with cheerleaders from Mission High, Veterans Memorial and Sharyland High School, who led cheers to get people into the spirit of the evening.
Mariachi Singer Shanty Zuemaya performed several Tejano songs such as “La Reina es le Rey.”
Caroline Gonzalez, a Mission High School senior who is a blind singer, sang a couple of songs, including “Too Good to Be True.”
Grupo Folklorico RGV brought dancers from their Mission studio who performed at all levels from the precious 3-to-5-year-olds wearing rumba skirts and talented elementary age dancers to older dancers who performed a variety of high-energy folkloric dances.
Kudos, a group of four boys doing interpretive dance, was wildly popular with the younger crowd.
Fusion, from MCISD, also offered spirited dancers.
The Mission High School Mariachi’s took stage and featured Caroline Gonzalez as its lead singer.
The evening ended with performances by dance groups from Mission Housing.
Sgt. Manuel Casas, who was official coordinator of the event for Mission Police Department, has been in charge of overseeing the event for the last two years.
“Mission’s National Night Out done in conjunction with Mission Crime Stoppers is a great event for the city,” Casas said. Not only does it provide a great evening of entertainment for the community, it helps bring the community closer to the police department. One thing we have noticed is since Mission’s National Night Out started 20 years ago, people in the community are more willing to work with police to solve crimes. They have learned to trust us and know we will not give their identity away if they call and give us tips about things that are happening we need to know about.
“Without the cooperation of Mission’s citizens, who sometimes are the eyes and ears of the Mission Police Department, the crime rate in the city would be much higher. We could not do it without them.”