CHICAGO (CBS) — Thanksgiving Day is around the corner, but some volunteers are in full swing on Christmas mode – working hard to brighten up Chicago’s famed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for the holidays.
CBS 2’s Marissa Para has the story.
“Before you know it, December 4 will be here,” said Tonya Hooks as she dusts off poinsettias from her basement on King Drive.
December 25 may be the main event she is waiting for, but Hooks is getting her home ready early for her fourth year with “Be Part of the Light” event.
For the fourth year in a row, volunteers with My Block, My Hood, My City are bringing Christmas cheer to a stretch of more than 60 blocks of King Drive, for families who can’t do it themselves – often for either financial or physical reasons.
“I just kind of fell into this darkness after my parents died – I had no lights anymore for the holidays. I didn’t have anyone to help me,” said Hooks. “So it was incredible when these volunteers first came three years ago. They showed up and showed out putting lights up. They went on my roof!”
But lighting up homes does not just happen on its own. Bringing the Christmas cheer takes a lot of hands and a lot of space – at least three storage units’ worth. CBS 2 was there as crews hauled boxes of garland and wreaths, ready to spring smiles to their new homes.
“You have the Magnificent [Mile] Lights Festival, and not all the kids on the South Side are able to go and see that,” said Leon Peatry of My Block, My Hood, My City. “So we’re going to bring it to them.”
Peatry said bringing light to the South Side is a way of bringing hope.
“You want to replace the police lights and ambulance lights with Christmas lights,” he said.
With the goal of getting 500 homes lit along one of the South Side’s busiest streets, Peatry shows there is still plenty of room for more – more donations, more volunteers, and more homes to decorate.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said as he pointed to the boxes out for the start.
If you’re interested in being part of the light, you can volunteer, donate decorations, or join the light movement and enlist your own home. You just have to live between 51st and 115th streets on King Drive.
Homeowners who sign up can get a stipend for the electric bill to help cover costs.
Kickoff is on Dec. 4, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Washington Park. A tree lighting celebration will follow from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. that evening.
There is also a second volunteer opportunity at Washington Park on Dec. 11 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.