By Joe Boyle
The staff at the Chicago Ridge Park District decided to shed some light to make the holiday season brighter despite the presence of COVID-19
Kevin King, the director of Chicago Ridge Parks and Recreation, wanted to do something to bring smiles to residents of the community after seeing so many activities postponed because of the pandemic.
King and staff members came up with idea of distributing 250 free Christmas lights to families living in Chicago Ridge.
"With all the cancellations due to COVID, we were not sure what to do," said King, who has been the park district director for 27 years. "We can't have a tree lighting or light shows. We weren't sure what to do with these lights. So, we came up with the idea of giving out free Christmas lights."
King and park district members got the word out that the lights were available. The news spread quickly and appreciative residents came by to pick up the lights.
"We were able to give out 15,000 lights," King said. "We were able to give 60 residents lights to decorate their homes."
King and employees were ecstatic at the reaction of residents. King said it was apparent that the idea to distribute lights hit a nerve with neighbors, many of whom have endured a tough year because of COVID-19.
"You know what? This is a feel-good story," King said. "Some residents came up to us to tell us thank you because the year has been tough for them and this has helped them out. Some even said they could not afford to have lights this year."
King was pleased at the turnout for the free lights. They will be part of a drive-by tour in which the park district notes the addresses of homes that are decorated for the holiday season. Chicago Ridge residents can then travel past the homes and witness them with a list provided by the park district.
The park district director admits that it has been a difficult year because of the virus. The majority of activities that were planned for the summer and fall had to be cancelled. Some of the activities were held virtually.
King just wanted to provide a beacon of light for the holidays. He is a resident of Chicago Ridge and has raised his family here. He added that these tough times bring out the best in most people. The park district is holding a food drive this weekend with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
"It's been a crazy year for all of us," King said. "But sometime you can come up with ideas to make it better. This has been very rewarding, obviously."