The holiday lights extravaganza that started on Seabury Avenue over a decade ago has extended to other neighborhoods since.
Along with that growth of decorated fun has come a major growth in charitable funds.
In 2018, longtime Seabury resident Bill McVicker and his wife, Diane, partnered with the Fairview Park Hunger Center, donating non-perishable goods and a check for $1,000 raised through the giving of city residents and other passers-by enjoying the neighborhood’s light displays. In 2019, that number jumped to $1,100.
Despite the effects of COVID-19 on public interaction in 2020, the most recent Fairview Park Holiday Lights season, which began Nov. 27 and ended Jan. 2, brought in more than double the 2019 amount. On Friday, the McVickers delivered a check for $3,000 to the food bank.
“It was very exciting,” Bill McVicker said of the most recent holiday season. “It’s just part of the fledgling growth of this model, this fundraiser that it’s become.”
The city’s Hunger Center, at New Hope Church, 22960 Lorain Road, serves as many as 100 qualifying community members, including families.
Bill McVicker said he wasn’t sure exactly what led to the sharp increase in monetary giving in 2020 and was equally unsure of how well the annual light display would go in the midst of a pandemic, but he was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. While scores of people trekked up and down Seabury to look at the lights, there were many nights when cars would line the entirety of the street, passing through while maintaining social distance.
“Some people would come up the driveway and just make a donation,” he said. “They didn’t take any hot chocolate, anything else, they just wanted to support what we were doing. I think part of that is due to more awareness that we have partnered with the Hunger Center. And then there’s the accurate perception that the money is going to help people. Even with COVID, I think people who didn’t have as bad of a year (financially) were happy to give to help the cause.”
The idea to engage the Seabury neighborhood in decorating started in 2012 when Bill McVicker enlisted 65 homes on the street to participate, then eventually got the entire street involved. Since then, residents from other parts of the city have come to him for advice on how to do the same.
This past season, over 1,000 homes joined the Fairview Park Holiday Lights program. To help others with their light displays, Bill McVicker ordered strands of lights, stakes and arch kits in bulk that were delivered to his home on pallets. The interest he’s garnered over the years from so many residents enjoying the show, or even wanting to join the co-op themselves, has been a rewarding experience, he said.
“It was gratifying, just the number of donations to the Hunger Center, and also humbling, what this event has become,” he said. “Lots of people have commented on (Facebook) posts and things that it’s a family tradition to go down Seabury, and that’s really, really neat.”
Monetary and non-perishable donations were made at the usual location, the McVickers’ “Elf Tent” at the front of their driveway. With pandemic precautions in mind, they also set up a GoFundMe page, and created a QR code on the Fairview Park Holiday Lights Facebook page.
With masks and distancing required for pedestrians, the “Elf Tent” continued to serve its yearly staples of hot chocolate, candy canes and “magic reindeer food,” a combination of bird seed and glitter for children to sprinkle on the ground.
During a city council meeting Dec. 21, Ward 5 Councilwoman Bridget King provided the McVickers with a certificate of appreciation for their efforts.
“The McVickers love the holiday season, and are so kind and friendly when you engage with them at the ‘Elf Tent’,” King said. “It is always a wonderful display. And this year, when you can feel stuck in your home, it was so nice to walk the street and see people out enjoying the season.”
To learn more about Fairview Park Holiday Lights or get involved, visit @fairviewparkholidaylights on Facebook.
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