Volunteers Keep a Christmas Tradition Going

This neighborhood holiday light show gives back to the community.

Neighbors’ homes decorated for Christmas.

(romakoma / Shutterstock.com)

Christmas lights and decorations are an annual tradition for Dale and Julie Marks and their neighbors on Ashby Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa. The massive holiday display raises money for the food Bank of Iowa, according to KCCI News.

“We made over 28,000 meals in cash for the food bank last year, and that's just an amazing feat," Dale Marks told KCCI. He is very proud of his work feeding the hungry in the community.

But this year, 2021, after having survived Covid-19, and the heart attack, and two strokes he suffered during his illness, Marks said that he was too weak  to put up his own lights.

“Dale decorates and puts all the lights up – I do the small things, he does the big things – and I knew there was no way that I could do it," Julie Marks told CNN. “He started talking about it and I was pretty sure it was impossible.”

Volunteers Lend a Hand
The Marks didn’t know what to do, they even talked  about hiring someone to do the work. But in the end, it wasn’t necessary. A good Samaritan came to his aid.

Bob Coffrey, a local contractor, heard about the problem from a mutual friend and he came with four of his employees to install the lights a week before Thanksgiving, according to CNN.  Coffrey said he volunteered to help because he remembered driving through the neighborhood to view the massive light display and he knew how important it was for the Christmas tradition to continue.

Dale Marks supervised the work from his porch. “You could just tell that he wanted to be there. So he would just say, 'Hey, come here, I need this over here," Coffrey said. "He knew to a T where everything went.”

When the job was finished both Coffrey and Marks were overcome with emotion. “He thanked me, he cried a little bit, I got teary,” Coffrey said.

The Show Goes On
The lights went on after Thanksgiving. While people can drive through the neighborhood any evening, special light tours are given on several days in December according to KCCI. The last date is Christmas eve from 6 – 9 pm.

Dale Marks will be watching the parade of cars from his window instead of being in the thick of things and handing out candy canes. Still, he is happy that this important tradition is continuing.

“He knows it's a blessing, and this is the time of blessings and thankfulness so we are going forward and we're going to raise as much money for the food bank as we can," Julie Marks, told KCCI. People can donate food or money gifts to go to the food bank.

 “Every little bit helps and we are so appreciative to the Marks family and this entire neighborhood,” said Annette Hacker, a spokesperson for the Food Bank of Iowa. She said that even a small gift can help fill a child’s backpack with food for the weekend. And giving is what the season is truly about.

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