Love of lights and love of Christ are what drive four Northwest Ohio residents into their yards as early as mid-October, setting up elaborate Christmas light displays set to music.
Robert Densic in Rossford, Sean Quinlivan in Maumee, Steve George in Sylvania and Kevin Wells in Toledo each collect donations for CedarCreek Church’s Beyond Our Walls initiative, which aims to serve those in need as instructed by the Biblical teachings of Jesus Christ.
“The concept behind it is to recognize the church is there to support the spiritual growth of its members, but we also have to reach beyond our walls,” Densic said. “It’s expanding God’s love beyond what we do [inside the church].”
Beyond Our Walls works with local organizations, including other local churches, on outreach projects to serve needs in the Toledo area as well as with a Louisiana community affected by Hurricane Katrina and communities around the world, especially Latin America, Densic said.
Densic has been raising money for Beyond Our Walls since 2007. The other three started last year after the church stopped offering its annual Lights on Lime City display, which collected canned food for local organizations.
“It took so many resources, volunteer-wise, and Christmas was already such a busy time for staff,” Quinlivan said. “We took the controllers and lights and split them between the four of us.”
Last year, $3,775 was raised from the four displays, said CedarCreek Outreach Pastor Bill Trout.
Most of the money raised from the displays stays local, providing hot meals, school supplies and more for Toledo area families, Trout said. Funds raised by Densic’s display benefits an AIDS orphanage in Honduras, according to his website.
“It’s an opportunity to help with physical needs and share the love of Christ, whether it’s in Honduras, El Salvador, Louisiana or right here in Toledo,” Trout said.
‘The Ageless Childs’ Christmas’
Densic’s display, “The Ageless Childs’ Christmas” at 107 Birch Drive in Rossford, features more than 62,000 lights on 368 channels. The display takes three miles of extension cords and about six weeks to set up, starting in mid-October.
“I’ve done it so often now people just expect it,” Densic said. “As soon as I’m outside, the questions start. People ask, ‘What are you changing this year?’ or say, ‘Hey, this was my favorite part from last year.’ All the neighbors are used to our insanity.”
Music is transmitted over a radio channel so people can watch and listen from their vehicles without blasting the neighborhood. A sign in the yard lets people know which channel. Between songs, commercials explain what Beyond Our Walls does.
Densic, an architect, started synchronizing his light displays to music in 2006 with 27,000 lights on 64 channels. He’s grown the display every year — even expanding into a neighbor’s yard. He has to watch the squirrels closely, to keep them from chewing the lights.
Densic’s electric bill is a subject of curiosity for many.
“Everyone asks that question, but our electric bill is not that bad,” Densic said, laughing. “Yes, it goes up a little bit, but because it’s a synchronized show, the lights aren’t all on at the same time.”
Densic said he enjoys talking to visitors.
“It’s something people can do as a family. There’s often four generations in one car,” Densic said. “Part of the reason we named the show what we did is because we’d hear oos and ahs not only from kids, but from moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, too. It makes people feel like a kid again.”
In particular, Densic got to know one elderly man who came to the display with his wife every year. Then one year the man showed up alone, carrying his wife’s urn.
“It gets to me to this day every time I tell this story,” Densic said. “His wife had passed away, but he just had to bring her back to see it again. I said, ‘I hope you’re having a good Christmas’ and he said, ‘I am now.’ That meant a lot. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, I don’t know what will. It’s sad, but also happy in a way.”
‘Lights for our Lord’
Quinlivan’s display, “Lights for our Lord” at 128 E. Broadway St., in Maumee, features 26,000 lights on 186 channels set to Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
“It’s a lot of hard work getting it up, at least 60 hours,” Quinlivan said. “Every year I try to add something to keep it interesting. As I’m outside doing it, people will honk or say, ‘Thanks for raising money for the church.’ I’ve never heard anything negative about it. It’s time-consuming, but in the end, it’s good. It gets a good response and helps out the church.”
Quinlivan, an electrician, used to be a Toledo Edison lineman and now works for CedarCreek.
“I’m able to use the talents and skills God has given me to celebrate Christmas,” Quinlivan said. “It’s a busy time of year and this is a way to focus on the purpose of Christmas and do something a little different to remind people what that is.”
Quinlivan has gone on one of CedarCreek’s mission trips to Louisiana. He helped clear downed trees off properties not long after Hurricane Katrina and saw the work of Beyond Our Walls firsthand.
“It was a tremendous amount of work,” Quinlivan said. “It was humbling to go there, just to see how one storm can just wipe someone out.”
‘Lights on Jeffrey Lane’
George’s light display, “Lights on Jeffrey Lane” at 6110 Jeffery Lane in Sylvania, features 20,000 lights on 128 channels, programmed to six songs, including Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Amazing Grace. It takes about 40 hours to set up.
“My wife limits me. I’m not allowed to start setting up until Thanksgiving,” George said, laughing. “I try to keep it reasonably small and manageable because I put them all up myself.”
The display is especially popular with George’s son Andrew, 9, daughter Justice, 7, and their friends, George said.
“The kids really get a kick about it. A lot of them come back again and again and again,” George said. “Everyone seems to like it. When I’m out setting up lights, everyone stops and says, ‘Hi.’ It’s a good way to get people in the holiday spirit. Even when I was single, I always put up Christmas lights and decorated. Now I’ve got two kids and it’s a big deal to them every year.”
‘Merry Digital Christmas’
Wells’ “Merry Digital Christmas” is located at 726 Butterfield Drive, in Toledo, where he syncs his lights to the music of Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, according to his website, merrydigitalchristmas.com.
Several other Northwest Ohio residents set up light displays for various causes, said Densic, who lists many of them on his website, theagelesschildschristmas.com.
“We really have a close-knit community, 14 or 15 of us, that do this every single year. We all know each other and help each other out. But we keep our secrets as well. We’re not in competition — but we are in competition,” Densic said, laughing. “It’s really a great group of guys.”
Knowing the lights brighten people’s days and the money raised helps others makes it all worth it, Densic said.
“It’s showing compassion in a place it’s desperately needed. That’s what we’re called to do,” Densic said. “When you see these kids and what it means to them, when you see these families and they have nothing, you can see it makes all the difference in their world.”