Christmas is coming early for the City of Carbondale thanks to a group of community-loving elves who meet regularly in the back corner of Little Nikki’s at the Ben Mar Restaurant to discuss plans to ensure that Main Street Carbondale will shine brightly this holiday season.

Many years ago, Carbondale resident and owner of McDonnell’s Restaurant, Bob McDonnell Sr. tasked himself with reaching out to the city’s local businesses for monetary donations to purchase and maintain the city’s Christmas light fixtures. Over time it became too much for Bob to do on his own. He approached the Carbondale Kiwanis Club to see if they were interested in taking over the responsibility of lighting up the city during the holiday season. As the mission of the Kiwanis Club is “to improve the world, one child at a time and one community at a time,” they happily agreed!

In the beginning, the Kiwanis Club raised funds to maintain the lights Bob McDonnell had already purchased. These lights were the trees and candlesticks that adorned Main Street so many years ago. Eventually, those lights began to fail after so many years of use and weathering, so the Kiwanis Club raised funds to purchase white snowflakes and angels. Those lights lasted many holiday seasons, but soon, they too, started to wear.

The Kiwanis Club decided that it was time for a fresh start. The old fixtures were sold to raise money for the new ones. In 2019, the Kiwanis Club joined forces with many other community organizations, including The Trinity Club, The Moxie club, UNICO of Carbondale and CLIDCO to raise money to light up the City of Carbondale once again.

Through fundraisers and a private $1,000 donation, they were successful in raising the money to buy new skylines and to redo the electric on the poles where they would hang. The goal was to raise money each year to purchase a couple of fixtures at a time to expand the number of lighted fixtures throughout Main Street.

However, in 2020, this initiative was halted, just like everything else due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonprofits found it nearly impossible to raise funds, so the project went dormant. Fast-forward to the arrival of 2022 and The Kiwanis Club is once again dedicated to bringing life back into this project. The plan remains the same: raise funds and light up Main Street Carbondale for the whole city to feel the warmth and joy of the holiday season!

A call for volunteers was put out to help with the project and as a result, The Kiwanis Club has teamed up with The Shade Tree Commission, representatives from the Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, the Carbondale Public Library, the Greater Carbondale YMCA and other members of the city to form the Carbondale Christmas Lights Committee and to jump start the project again.

To keep the public informed, the group has created a Facebook page called Carbondale Christmas Lights Campaign. Although the page is in the early stages, the public will be able to donate directly to the campaign and view scheduled fundraiser events. The committee has set a goal for 2022 to raise $25,000 to purchase three more skylines, six lighted soldiers, six lighted Christmas trees and six lighted bells to hang in the downtown this coming holiday season.

To help reach this goal, the Campaign’s first fundraiser will be a Cash Bingo on Sunday, June 12 in the Hotel Anthracite’s Grand Ballroom. The doors will open at noon and Bingo will start at 1 p.m. In addition to Bingo, there will be basket raffles, a 50/50 chance, special games with great prizes along with food and drinks for sale. Tickets will be available for purchase at many locations throughout Carbondale within the coming weeks.

The Carbondale Christmas Lights Committee is dedicated to creating a warm, joyful, small town feeling to all who live, work and travel through Main Street Carbondale for many years to come! Anyone who wishes to support this mission is asked to visit the Facebook page, Carbondale Christmas Lights Committee, or reach out to any of the members.

Stephanie Spaid is the assistant to the director at the Carbondale Public Library. The Carbondale resident been involved with raising funds for Carbondale’s Christmas lights for several months. Her favorite part of Christmas is admiring her finished Christmas tree.