Two events aim to build bridges

Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park — the two most diverse cities in Minnesota — aim to celebrate that diversity and to connect community members with each other and with local police through a pair of upcoming events.

The first is set for this evening, Aug. 26, from 6-8 p.m. in Brooklyn Center. It’s a “Safe Summer Nights” get-together and is an extension of a program that was launched in St. Paul last year. It will feature free burgers and brats, along with a rock climbing wall, kickball and other activities, and will bring together residents, police and firefighters.

Next month, on Sept. 19, Brooklyn Park will hold a Community Diversity Day at the city’s Central Park. Brooklyn Park has held diversity events in the past, but a primary goal of this one is to foster relationships between community members and the police, said Police Department Community Liaison Paula Van Avery.

“It’s really to build friendships and understanding,” said Susan Blood, of the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council. “Not very often do you have people from four different continents living on the same block.”

The Safe Summer Nights program was the brainchild of St. Paul businessman Tom Campion. In the spring of 2014, he approached the St. Paul Police Department about organizing a community-police cookout and offered to supply volunteers and food.

“I’ve been in the food business all my life,” said Campion. “Food can and will always bring people together.”