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 started when Matt Riggs (a block resident) discovered that his neighbor 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 to and been offered three jobs but all were canceled because of COVID. He felt “broken and defeated.”
He wanted to feel joy so he put up 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 it inspired more neighbors to do the same.
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.”
They were blessed to have a helpful neighbor. Tom Desert was able rig each strand individually, which allowed him to create a canopy above the block and place anchors in each of the lawns to keep them 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 small project soon grew into something big when neighbors got in cars and drove to Home Depot to buy their own set of lights.
There are 32 homes on this block, and each one joined the other!
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 asked her neighbors what they thought the sign should say. She was able to think beyond the holiday theme.
“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.
The block decided to add a mailbox for children to drop off their letters to Santa Claus, and a food donation box.
Desert will also manage the display. He stated that he may have to take a day off in order to remove the high ones, which are approximately 30 feet high at the highest points of the block.
Riggs, a neighbor who originally wanted to cheer her up, is doing much 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.
Riggs created this Facebook album to show more photos of the lights.
Indeed! This little community turned Christmas decorating into an opportunity for neighbor help.
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