A Night to Unite in Roseville

Night to Unite was celebrated Aug. 6 throughout the country and in Roseville, including on Rosewood Lane. (Mike Munzenrider)

Night to Unite was a groovy scene on Ferris Lane. (Mike Munzenrider photos)

Roseville Deputy Police Chief Erika Scheider had a slate of 10 Night to Unite parties to attend; on Rosewood Lane it was mostly for the kids.

Roseville community service officer Abdi Warsame distributed water bottles to kids on Rosewood Lane.

A volunteer painted faces at Galilee Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Night to Unite event.

Night to Unite was Aug. 6, and Roseville police, firefighters and other city officials made the rounds throughout the community visiting gatherings that evening.

A small sampling of the 2019 festivities included hippies, kids eager to learn about policing and a lost-then-found child, proving public safety officials remain on-call even as they visit with residents under conditions intended to be stress-free.

At Roseville PD prior to police personnel fanning out across the suburb, Chief Rick Mathwig estimated that his officers visit some 80-90 Night to Unite gatherings each year. The national event aims to bring neighbors together to build bonds and promote community safety.

Cops swapped stories about past parties, recounting the street where residents formed a jam band, countless costumes and the gathering that hired an Elvis impersonator.

While there’re plenty of fun and games, Mathwig, who is joined each year by City Manager Pat Trudgeon on his rounds, said that with the help of a donation Roseville officers would be handing out prescription drug disposal bags that night. 

While the bags, which can each neutralize 45 pills, help keep drugs from being flushed down the toilet, Mathwig said the main goal of distributing them is to help residents get rid of pills easily so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Studies show that many who abuse opioids — both prescription painkillers and heroin — are first exposed to the drugs through a friend or relative’s medicine cabinet.

There would be other, lighthearted giveaways as well — officers would go out bearing gifts for kids, balls and other law enforcement swag, along with a donation of candy corn from Edible Arrangements.


Group efforts

Abdi Warsame, a Roseville community service officer, joined Deputy Chief Erika Scheider in her squad car to go out on his first Night to Unite. He’s studying law enforcement at Metropolitan State University.

From behind the wheel, Scheider said the night’s events usually offer a variety of experiences — she had a list of 10 with general times at which she and Warsame were expected to show.

“[Some are] very informal,” she said. “Others have questions about crime trends — no party is ever the same.”

She added: “For some people this is their only contact with police.”

The duo’s first stop was in the Ferriswood neighborhood in the southwest corner of the city. The deputy chief was greeted with a glass of chardonnay, which she politely declined; The Doors’ “Light My Fire” blared from a nearby garage.

Barbara Heinemann, a Ferris Lane resident of nearly two decades and the first-year organizer of her townhome association’s event, had an easy explanation for the night’s hippy theme.

“I figure we’re all products of the 60s,” she said, explaining she took on the role of organizer from Ron and Mary Rumpsa, who’d done the job for seven years.

“We were running out of themes,” said Mary Rumpsa.

Handmade signs said “Groovy Baby” and “Make Luv Not War,” as the mostly older crowd cracked jokes from behind their tie-dye. Another former organizer revealed that Ferriswood was the neighborhood that had hired the Elvis impersonator.

Neighbors formed for a group photo with Scheider and Warsame and then the police were headed to another party. The stop lasted all of 10 minutes.

Scheider explained the evening involves similarly quick visits throughout town — calls for service can derail the schedule.

“So we’ll keep our fingers crossed that tonight is a slow night until 9 o’clock,” she said.

In the 2200 block of Rosewood Lane a pickup truck blocked the road to protect the two parties on the street from traffic. 

Scheider parked her squad beyond the barrier and kids soon swarmed the police vehicle. Warsame went to work, distributing water bottles and showing off the interior of the car.

From under a couple pop-up tents in her driveway and flanked by a line of bikes, Megan Tardiff said she played a role in reviving her neighborhood’s gatherings after a 15-year hiatus.

Originally from Roseville, she said she’d moved to her Rosewood Lane home from Minneapolis three years ago and spearheaded Nights to Unite two years in a row as a way to get to know people.

The first year was complete with a bounce house and facepainting, the second with an organized bike race for kids.

For the third year, Tardiff said, it was an all-neighbors-involved, lower frills effort, evidenced by the related dinner gathering a couple homes down, and a planned game of streetball set to start any moment.

“This is not my party,” she said. “It’s everyone’s party.”


Still on call

A handful of Night to Unite gatherings take place at centers of community, including parks and churches. On the way to Galilee Evangelical Lutheran Church, Scheider said the next stop would be her first at a place of worship.

Jim Zrust, a charter member at Galilee, which was founded in 1960 and is located just north of Larpenteur Avenue on Rice Street, ran the cake walk.

He, along with other volunteers such as 15-year-old Leslie Mendoza, who ran the fishing game, make the free annual event at the church go.

“It’s a way to meet our neighbors and act like we’re in the neighborhood,” said Zrust, explaining the Night to Unite activities grew out of the church’s Wednesday night kid’s ministry when its attendance faltered.

With a couple dozen families enjoying ice cream, roasted corn and a blow-up slide, all donated, Zrust said Galilee had a good turnout.

“[It’s] a little bit more than last year — I guess word gets out about free school supplies,” said Zrust, referencing the 70 backpacks that had already been given away.

Scheider said the arrival of the fire department can overshadow the cops, and that’s just what happened following the officers’ entrance.

Firefighters showed up in a ladder truck with Fire Chief Tim O’Neil in tow in a smaller vehicle. 

O’Neil echoed the sentiments of his colleagues in blue — Night to Unite offered him and other first responders a chance to connect with residents under fun, non-emergency circumstances.

Then there was a small emergency at the church and the assembly of public safety officials went into action. A mother approached Scheider and told her she didn’t know where her 3-year-old son was — he’d gone to use the bathroom inside the church and then was nowhere to be found.

After an initial search didn’t turn him up, police called in at 6:39 p.m. a report of a missing person. More Roseville first responders showed up at the scene, along with St. Paul cops and even Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, who’d been doing his own community outreach nearby.

The tone of the church gathering changed as people were made aware of the missing child, though the presence of police and firefighters seemingly tempered their worries. 

A half hour after the call went out the 3-year-old was found. Friends had tried to stop him from wandering home and had kept him nearby while trying to contact his parents.

Scheider embraced the boy’s mother, who clutched her child in relief, and then she and Warsame headed back to their squad car to pick up where they’d left off on their rounds. 

The deputy chief said she hoped folks would understand why they were late.


–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here