There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned cookout to bring people together.
That’s what Christopher Kizer thought when he decided to organize a free cookout for the Fuquay-Varina area and call it the All In Community Cookout. The event is Saturday, Aug. 13, at Fuquay-Varina’s Falcon Park.
Kizer, a 33-year-old minister at Chalk Level CME Church in Fuquay-Varina, said he has a vision for the event. He is determined to bring the the town’s youth together in a constructive way.
“We want to respond to the needs of our youth,” he said. “There’s a lot of kids in the community, and young adults, who don’t have an opportunity to voice their opinions.”
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At the All In Community Cookout, young people can gather and talk with their peers and members of the Fuquay Varina Police Department.
Kizer said the event is a cookout first, but that officers want to have an open conversation with attendees and answer any questions they might have. Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Laura Fahnestock will have a “rap session,” or open discussion, with the kids.
“That’s how we get strong,” Kizer said.
In light of recent national events, such as officer-involved shootings, protests and racial tension, Kizer said bringing the community together is vital.
“I think it’s important for our youth, our kids, to be together, to see the community come together,” he said. “Especially with everything that’s going on with the police.”
Kizer went to Fahnestock to see if she would be interested in talking with young people at the event. Fahnestock agreed. She said she thinks it’s an opportunity for police to connect with the community. The department already hosts regular “Coffee With a Cop” sessions where residents can chat informally with the department’s officers.
“I support community engagement within the town of Fuquay-Varina,” she said. “It allows us to reach our youth and various communities within our town. ... It allows us to actively build positive relationships.”
Police departments have to be transparent to be productive, she said. The cookout will give her officers a chance to talk honestly in a non-stressful environment with those who might be skeptical of police.
“The main thing to be an effective law enforcement agent is we have to be open,” she said. “It’s critical right now, with the issues that are happening in the country.”
Fahnestock said the she expects the event to be a success, based on support it already has received from residents and businesses.
“The engagement is positive,” she said. “So I anticipate that we’re going to be building new relationships.”
In addition to officers, the department’s Police Explorers will be present. The program is for 14- to 20-year-olds who are interested in becoming police officers. Fahnestock hopes the cookout can be used as a recruiting tool.
Kizer said the American Legion will be in attendance as well, to help teach proper flag etiquette. He said he’s received significant support from local residents – who have helped raise money through a GoFundMe page – as well as businesses, churches, the mayor and Kizer’s own non-profit, All About That Prayer Life.
He is still accepting donations at gofundme.com/2enf2uf8. Proceeds will pay for food and youth T-shirts for the event.
The event sparked the interest of Paige Ratliff, a resident of Willow Spring outside of Fuquay-Varina. She first noticed it on the Fuquay-Varina Police Department’s Facebook page.
“You turn on the news and you see so much negative,” she said. “This is something positive that somebody is trying to do in conjunction with the police department.”
She said she plans on attending the event and likes that Kizer is taking the next step in community conversation.
“I think that people may sit at home, and people say, ‘This needs to be better,’ but the fact that he actually took the steps and put the plan in motion is great,” Ratliff said. “He’s the somebody who’s doing something.”
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609; @pconnellly
Want to go?
A free cookout is Saturday, Aug. 13, from noon to 5 p.m. at Falcon Park, 105 Falcon Park Drive, Fuquay-Varina. The event is sponsored by the town’s police department and the All In organization. Food pantry donations will be accepted. Go to facebook.com/Allincommunity for information or gofundme.com/2enf2uf8 to contribute.