FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- For 12-year-old Jessica Woodall, National Night Out is more than an opportunity to learn about crime prevention - it is a time for fun and making new friends.

Woodall was one of several Fort Jackson community members who turned out Tuesday night to celebrate National Night Out.

"Everyone is just hanging out and having a good time," said Woodall, daughter of Sgt. 1st Class Charles Woodall, 165th Infantry Brigade. "My favorite so far has been the face painting. It has been really fun."

This is the third year Balfour Beatty has hosted National Night Out in the family housing area at Fort Jackson. The event is held nationwide as a community awareness event on the first Tuesday in August.

"We live on post, but that doesn't mean we are immune to crime," said Alana Youngblood, LifeWorks coordinator for Balfour Beatty. "This is a great chance to promote crime and drug awareness. We want to make it feel like a community here, where we look and watch out for each other."

The event also provided an opportunity to give away 200 sets of school supplies to help students and parents get ready for the new school year.

"We really wanted to assist the families with school supplies, especially for kids that go to post schools," Youngblood said. "We seem to have taken care of everyone who came."

In addition to free school supplies, families were treated to food, music and a watermelon-eating contest, which was won by Quest Benevento. Participants were also visited by McGruff the Crime Dog and Daren the Lion, who were played by police officers Sgt. David Beaton and Spc. Shane Mehic, respectively.

"I wanted to bring my family out and see Fort Jackson," said Sgt. 1st Class Refugio Lopez, a student at the NCO Academy. "We've been mingling with other families and getting to know everyone. It has been a great atmosphere for the kids."

National Night Out began in 1984 with 2.5 million participants in 400 communities. Last year, the event drew 36 million people from more than 15,000 communities.

"This has been more than just something to do. It has been a chance to learn about crime prevention and get to know your neighbors in case there is an emergency," Army spouse Kelly Higgins said.