Tuesday is ‘night to unite’

RPD, Toyota of Ridgecrest, Etoch Foundation host ‘National Night Out’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Tuesday is ‘night to unite’As the Ridgecrest community prepares to join cities around America in the observance of “National Night Out” — a movement that endeavors to build bonds between peace officers and the neighborhoods they serve — the local event may have particular poignance.

For the Tuesday, Aug. 6, celebration at Freedom Park, event sponsors Ridgecrest Police Department, Toyota of Ridgecrest and the Evan Etoch Foundation also hope to capitalize on the renewed sense of community established at a similar event on July 9 — planned to restore a sense of security and comfort in the wake of earthquakes.

An estimated 4,000 turned out to the first event, which featured dinner and a movie in the park. Next week’s event will build on the success of that model.

The Etoch crew will once again offer free hot dogs, drinks and snacks. (Local food trucks will also be there to sell their specialized cuisines.)

Food will be served starting at 7 p.m.

The foundation will also give away $20,000 in school supplies for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Children will be able to walk through the Toyota tents to select the items they need for the coming year. Anything left over will be donated to local schools.

“Needless to say, we are stacked up to the ceiling in supplies, so we really want to get the word out to our community that we can help,” said Fred Etoch.

When the Etoches and their core supporters started planning the event, they tried to think of what meaningful contribution they could make. “We thought, with so much damage in peoples homes — a lot of which is not visible — helping gather back-to-school supplies would be one less thing families needed to worry about.”

Toyota of Ridgecrest put money into the foundation to accomplish this, and the corporate Toyota office offered support as well. “Toyota will also be supporting us at the event, and a couple of people from corporate will be there,” said Fred.

For the evening entertainment, Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin secured permission to screen “Look to the Sky” — a film by Brett Culp that weaves together uplifting real-life stories that depict the heroic spirit of young people.

McLaughlin notes that the theme of the movie fits with the city’s present attempts to rebuild after the destruction and anxiety wrought by July’s historic earthquake sequence.

For the film, which begins at 8:30 p.m., the IWV Economic Development Corp. has rented a giant 40-foot screen to project the movie. Leading up to the movie, a slide-show tribute to our first responders will be running while various activities for children will be offered in the park.

Families are invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets for the movie.

Fred and Janelle Etoch, owners of Toyota of Ridgecrest, said that the event is part of their ongoing mission to support the community while honoring the memory of their son, Evan. (See related story, front page).

But they also hope to see a return to the sense of camaraderie that has been one of the defining characteristics of our community.

Both Janelle and Fred were raised by families who ran businesses, lived, worshiped and volunteered in the Indian Wells Valley. They remember that as they grew up, people knew and loved their neighbors.

Coming together at Freedom Park following the earthquakes gave people a profound sense of the ties that bind — one that could not be duplicated through the filter of social media. The Etoches stressed the importance of those bonds in building the kind of community that people want to move to and stay in.

Within just a few days of promoting the event on Facebook, the message had been shared hundreds of times and viewed by countless residents.

“We were not prepared for how big the last one turned out,” said Janelle. “I think this one is going to be even bigger.”

Pictured: Toyota of Ridgecrest staff hands out beverages and snacks at the last movie night — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-08-02