Residents in the Historic Grendel Community in Greenwood gathered Thursday evening for a parade to mark the annual Neighborhoods Celebrating a Safer Greenwood, S.C. event, and take a stand against drugs alongside law enforcement officials.
Toni Able, executive director of Healthy Greenwood Neighborhoods, said the event used to be known as the National Night Out.
“Grendel has chosen a crime prevention theme this year,” Able said.
Beth Rembert of the Grendel Neighborhood Association said the group decided not only to have a theme of crime prevention, but ridding the community of drugs.
“We’re focusing on burying drugs,” Rembert said.
The parade included not only residents carrying signs against drugs, but a symbolic casket, complete with mourners singing “Amazing Grace,” and the Marine Corps League served as color guard.
Greenwood Police Chief Gerald Brooks was on hand, as were other law enforcement agencies, including the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Department Bloodhound Unit, and the Greenwood Fire Department provided a unit to run in the parade.
Brooks said these types of events are important for law enforcement.
“We can’t do our jobs by ourselves,” he said. “We need the eyes and the ears of the community.”
Brooks said events like the one in the Grendel neighborhood Thursday enable law enforcement officials to form relationships with citizens. “I always say, ‘Knowledge precedes trust,’” the chief said. “At events like this, people can get to know us and we can develop relationships in the community.”
Greenwood County Council member Gonza Bryant, who represents Grendel on council, marched in the parade and lauded neighborhood leaders for organizing the event.
“I support any effort by the community to take charge of the neighborhood,” Bryant said. “It’s always good when citizens come out in support of their community and participate in the eradication of drugs.”
Able said these events are designed for community leaders to “get together with law enforcement in a different environment and talk about some of the issues being faced by them.”
Another special guest at Grendel’s event was another respected member of the law enforcement community – “Fearless Fife.”
Barney Fife impersonator Ronnie Felker was on hand for the parade, along with “girlfriend” Thelma Lou – his wife, Elease Felker. The Clinton couple has been appearing at churches, civic events and festivals for about five years, doing about 60 events per year.
“I just like being out in a crowd,” Ronnie Felker said. “It’s really a ministry for us. We always do skits and have a devotional at the end.”
He said it started when his pastor asked them to do it at a church event. “When your pastor asks you to do something, you’ve got to do it or he’ll just keep talking about it,” Felker said with a chuckle. “We did it for our church and it just kind of caught on.”
“Fearless Fife” was carrying a bullet in his shirt pocket and brought the Mayberry Sheriff’s Office Ford cruiser with him.
Thursday’s parade started at Holy Redeemer Church on Jordan Street and wound through the neighborhood with lights flashing, garnering attention from community residents as it made its way along the route.