HOW A LITTLE SPACE CAN GO A LONG WAY DURING THE HOLIDAYS
In neighborhoods all around the country we see communities join together during the holiday season to give back in support of local organizations and charitable causes. With 814 shopping centers nationwide, Kimco plays its own part each holiday season – and all year long – to give back to our neighbors through fundraisers, donations, events, and other creative partnerships.
In Cary, North Carolina, we’re helping one local Boy Scout Troop brighten up the entire community, one luminaria at a time, by donating prime retail space at our Crossroads Plaza shopping center. At this space, local Boy Scout Troop 216 will assemble thousands of luminarias to be distributed to households throughout the region, bringing a warm glow and some holiday cheer through this free community initiative. Luminarias are paper bags filled with a small layer of sand and a candle, and they’re put out at sunset on Christmas Eve to decorate the neighborhood. According to local folklore – as told by Luminaria Coordinator for local Boy Scout Troop 216, Don Fick – the Luminaria Program in Cary was dreamed up as a fundraising and service project by a single Scout troop in 1973. At that time, Cary was a small town with a population of approximately 8,000 people. Today, Cary’s population is 150,000 and growing, and this initiative has blossomed in turn, with 24 Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and various other local youth organizations throughout the community now participating.
We spoke with Don so he could shine some light on the community program, and discuss just what would be taking place as Troop 216 organized at our shopping center.
For Troop 216, the Luminaria Program is a community service project, during which the Boy Scouts assemble and deliver luminaria kits to area residents, making it easy (and free) for them to participate in traditional community-wide luminaria lighting on Christmas Eve. Don told us that when there’s a high level of participation in the neighborhood, it makes for a truly beautiful setting.
“It’s kind of tranquil and elegant as the lights illuminate the streets,” he said. Some neighborhoods have been lighting luminarias since the mid ‘70s, bringing a great sense of tradition and community to the annual event.
TEAMWORK: Troop 216 and their families assemble luminary kits.
Established in 1978, Troop 216 has 80 members, ages 11 through 17, and is the largest participant in the Luminaria Program in terms of the number of homes they visit and the number of kits they deliver. The boys visit about 2,900 homes and deliver 3,700 kits to those families.
From 2008 to 2012, Troop 216’s luminaria kit assembly took place at a former Kimco shopping center. This year, the troop will meet at Kimco’s Crossroads Plaza, which is close to many major neighborhoods they serve, including MacGregor and Lochmere, and is a safe, comfortable, and central place for the families to meet. In the space that Kimco has donated, the troop will be able to organize production lines for kit assembly and store large quantities of supplies, including thousands of candles and paper bags.
Among the many steps that take place during the official evening of assembly, the troop has to bag sand to provide with the kits—the boys will scoop approximately eight cubic yards or 24,000 pounds of sand that night. The production becomes a family affair: Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of Troop 216 help to assemble the kits, which include paper bags, candles, sand, and program literature. Don tells us that during production, the Boy Scouts and their families create enough kits to line the side of an interstate highway for about 60 miles! When all is said and done, the troop will build nearly 25,000 luminarias this year alone.
The Scouts receive a lot of great feedback from the residents they deliver to—thank you notes by mail and very warm greetings from the residents when they approach their homes on the first Saturday morning of December. It also creates a sense of community as residents chat with and assist their neighbors in lighting the candles.
In addition to the positive responses, the donations that the troop receives as a result of the Luminaria Program help to support the troop for the entire year so they can continue to serve neighborhoods and participate in educational events and activities.
We’re looking forward to seeing yet another bright holiday season in Cary this winter. But if you’re interested in other ways you can help, the troop is always seeking less expensive sources for its supplies. If you’re a local resident or merchant who has wholesale contacts or knows of other ways to help the troop purchase supplies that may reduce their costs, give them a shout! You can visit their website at www.troop216cary.org.
Beyond the Luminaria Program: Troop 216 participates in “Scouting for Food,” a donation collection from neighborhood residents that provides food to local pantries for low-income families and people in need. In a single day, the troop collects over 2,000 pounds of food from the same people they deliver luminaria kits to. In addition, the troop has graduated nearly 100 Eagle Scouts who have done community service projects throughout the community.