The act of spreading holiday cheer becomes more special when it’s a team effort. That’s what a group of neighbors in Dunkirk Road in Towson, Maryland, have been doing since last year.
It all began when Matt Riggs, a resident of the block, found out his neighbor across the street was suffering from depression in December 2020. Riggs was having a hard time himself during the pandemic, saying that it was “such a dark time” for them all.
Riggs had applied for and been offered three jobs, but they were all revoked because of COVID. He felt “broken and defeated.”
To feel some joy, he hung his Christmas lights early.
As Riggs was climbing his tree and running the lights up, he tried to see if he could get them across the street to his struggling neighbor’s house. He did, and the move inspired more neighbors to join in.
Leah Commisso saw Riggs’ lights display and talked to her across the street neighbor.
“I was like, ‘Hey, let’s do it too,’” she said. “It’ll bookend the block, you’ll drive through one light and then when you leave the block, you’ll drive out of it. But it’s a lot harder to hang those lights than one would imagine.”
Luckily, they had a handy neighbor in their midst. Tom Desert figured out how to rig one strand after another, allowing him to make a canopy over the block and install anchors in each lawn that will keep the strands in place.
“Once there was a job to be done, Tom came out and he was helping us because it’s really hard. They’re heavy, those lights,” Commisso said. “Tom was able to get our lights up and then we were like, everybody let’s do it.“
Their little project soon turned into a big one as other neighbors got in their cars and cleared out Home Depot to purchase their own set of lights.
There are 32 homes on the block, and each of them joined in!
Melissa DiMuzio had missed out on hanging her own strand, but she really wanted to contribute to the community’s DIY lights display. She took wire hangers and bent them into a sign that reads, “Love lives here.” Then, she wrapped it in lights, and Desert helped her put it up.
“It was moving to see just like six or seven light strands going across the street. And so I made the sign,” she said.
DiMuzio surveyed neighbors on what the sign should say. That allowed her to think outside of themes relating to the holidays.
“The last one was love lives here, which is actually on a wooden plaque in my garage that my mom gave me,” DiMuzio said.
The message couldn’t be more perfect.
“We have 32 homes on this block and despite the differences in opinions and beliefs, however you want to look at that, everybody here loves one another,” Desert said. “I think that love lives here is explanatory of how it works on this block.”
Commisso agreed, describing their neighborhood as a “very special place.” They have also built so much trust within the community.
“We parent everybody else’s children around here,” she said.
This year, the block decided to add a mailbox where kids can drop their letters to Santa Claus and a box where people can donate food.
The display will come down in January, and Desert will also be in charge of that. He said that he might have to take a day off to take down the high ones, which are about 30 feet in the air on the highest points of the block.
The neighbor Riggs originally wanted to cheer up is doing better these days. The connected light display meant to cheer her up also lifted everyone’s spirits, which is an even better outcome than Riggs had imagined.
“I think anybody that needs a little light in their life, this would be a great neighborhood to go through,” he said.
If you want to see more photos of the lights display, you can check out this Facebook album created by Riggs himself.
Indeed! Kudos to this little community for turning Christmas decorating into an opportunity to help a neighbor out.
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