WATERVILLE, Maine. (WABI) 15 years ago, the South End of Waterville began a movement to inspire their community to reduce drug activity, vandalism, and crime rate in the neighborhood.
A decade and a half later, the South End of the Elm City is a safer place - and a teen center and community festival are symbols of their progress.
"Like any community, the South End has its issues. But it also has a lot of great people and good community members down there, and we love working with them," said Waterville's Deputy Police Chief William Bonney.
In a partnership among the Waterville Police Department, the South End Neighborhood Association, and a number of community organizations, the 15th annual South End National Night Out Festival has grown from a small BBQ into a symbol of the region's progress that's attracted 500 people in recent years.
"The people in this neighborhood really look forward to it every year, and so it draws very heavily from this neighborhood, but from all over Waterville and a few folks from out of town as well," said Michele Prince, Chief Operating Officer, KV CAP.
"When you have a transient population, people tend to take less ownership in their community. So when you bring those folks together - neighborhood associations and neighborhood watches and you have these types of events - people take more ownership in their community. And that's good for them and it's good for us," said Bonney.
Around the same time organizers began planning the festival, the Alfond Youth Center and KV Cap got together to inspire teens to stay out of trouble by providing area youth structured programming to encourage safe and healthy decisions.
"Teens, they need something to do. They need productive programming and if they don't have it, studies show that they get into trouble. So I'm an avid supporter of the Teen Center and I have been for years," said Bonney.
From community service projects to help with homework, staff at the South End Teen Center work with students from sixth grade and up to help keep them active and responsible in their school and community.
They're currently in the process of attaining instrument donations from community members to start up a music program as well.
"If they have any instruments lying around collecting dust, lets get them here and get them used. The kids love it," said Ryan Kneeland, Coordinator for the South End Teen Center.
Anyone 18 and under is invited to the center all summer long, from Monday to Friday, to grab a bite to eat as part of its summer lunch program.
Teens from the center will be joining area businesses, neighbors, police and fire departments at the South End's blowout on Tuesday from 5-7 at Green Street Park.