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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 2:34 am | Fair and Breezy 54º


Superhero Helps Lompoc Police, Boys & Girls Clubs Connect with Community

Batman joins Police Chief Pat Walsh, youth program providers for walk through Lompoc neighborhood

Batman high-fives a young resident of a Lompoc apartment complex during Saturday’s neighborhood walk by Lompoc police and staff of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County. Click to view larger
Batman high-fives a young resident of a Lompoc apartment complex during Saturday’s neighborhood walk by Lompoc police and staff of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Lompoc police often draw a crowd when they hold community walks to talk to residents. They don’t typically attract a crime-fighting superhero like the one who showed up Saturday, however.

Police Chief Pat Walsh and Sgt. Kevin Martin were joined by representatives from the Lompoc Unit of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, other community members and one unique participant: Batman (in this case, aka Terry Smith, a volunteer at Lompoc Foursquare Church).

Walsh has conducted a few of these walks as a chance to meet the community and hear locals’ concerns.

On Saturday, representatives of the Boys & Girls Clubs, including Lompoc Unit director Devika Stalling, joined the walk in a neighborhood west of Thompson Park to help inform parents about the programs.

“It’s not really about the police or the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Walsh said. “It’s really about community.”

Past walks involved a mixture to organizations to help people land jobs and services or reunite.

“All these little connections occur,” he said.

Walsh said the walks give him a chance to meet with residents. The program is similar to one utilized by his former department in Portland.

“It’s a way for me to get out and meet people, because I’m not a native,” he said.

Martin noted the importance of police officers connecting with residents when they’re not under duress or distress.

“It’s just another way for us to bridge that gap with the community and the Police Department,” he said.

With the holidays and colder weather Saturday, Walsh wasn’t sure how many people the entourage would encounter since few people were outside.

“We never know,” he said, before handing out Lompoc Police Department stickers to his fellow walkers to give to children along the route.

“And Batman might bring people out of their houses, too,” he added.

Never underestimate the attraction of a superhero suddenly showing up in the neighborhood, the walk proved.

Batman posed for pictures with eager children, encouraging them to raise a fist for justice.

“Unexpected but kind of cool, huh?” Walsh asked while watching a boy pose with the caped crusader.

Stalling and her team& offered Boys & Girls Clubs applications to neighborhood parents and described the programs available.

“We’re out here to help reach the kids who need us the most,” Stalling said, adding that she did not want an inability to pay to hinder children in their participation.

Saturday’s outreach informed parents about full scholarships so their children could go to the Boys & Girls Clubs, which has assorted recreation, after-school and other programs at the main facility plus two other sites.

The Boys & Girls Clubs provide children with a safe, thriving environment while keeping them off the streets, Stalling explained.

“Coming to the club they get to foster those positive relationships and be with their peers,” she added. “For kids who live in different neighborhoods that might not necessarily communicate with each other, with the rising gang activity and all that, the club is a safe place for them to be able to do that.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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