College Hill's Luminaria Night aims to inspire community, support New Bethany
EASTON, Pa. — Keep an eye out for the abundance of luminarias in Easton this Saturday, as the Village on College Hill lights up the night in a mission to foster a sense of community and support nonprofit New Bethany.
Saturday will mark College Hill's first Luminaria Night, in which homes throughout the community line the streets with white paper bags containing lit candles.
Organizers say they hope it will encourage residents and visitors to remember those in the area who are in need during the holiday season.
“It really wowed me, I did not expect it. It's definitely bigger than I expected. We're going to have over 3,000 luminaries lit that night, and it's going to be beautiful."Joanne Nadovich, treasurer for the Village on College Hill
Those interested in picking up a Luminaria kit can stop by Suite 106 at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, right next to uBreakiFix and the Patio, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and the Moravian Book Shop during business hours.
While Bethlehem’s Luminaria Night has drawn about 4,000 homes to participate in the joyful and philanthropic holiday tradition over the course of 26 years, by all accounts, College Hill is shooting for a strong start to its own venture.
“It really wowed me, I did not expect it," said Joanne Nadovich, treasurer for the Village on College Hill. "It's definitely bigger than I expected. We're going to have over 3,000 luminaries lit that night, and it's going to be beautiful."
'Going to develop this further'
Luminaria Night accompanies other notable winter holidays centered around light, including Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice.
As the Village on College Hill and nonprofit New Bethany puts it, the event channels a sense of “being the light in our neighbor’s darkest hour.”
Proceeds from luminaria purchases will go to New Bethany to benefit its mission to “support to people who experience poverty, hunger, and homelessness.”
“We want to encourage more communication by drawing them out of their homes, away from the screens and televisions, and hopefully out into the neighborhoods. Hopefully we're going to develop this further in future years and we'll get out more and have more activities in the neighborhood that evening."Joanne Nadovich, treasurer for the Village on College Hill
The Village on College Hill is a nonprofit that provides support and services to College Hill residents over age 50.
Nadovich said she was inspired to get her group involved in the program after reading about Blue Zones, which are regions where people report living longer, happier, healthier lives.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to instill community, to bolster community in this neighborhood, among all ages," Nadovic said.
"What I've been reading is, on the Blue Zones, there's like nine different points that they point out as being factors of long life, longevity, and one of them is connecting with your community."
The event helps to focus the community on a common goal, and encourages engagement between neighbors, fostering new friendships and bonds in the real world.
“We want to encourage more communication by drawing them out of their homes, away from the screens and televisions, and hopefully out into the neighborhoods," Nadovich said.
"Hopefully we're going to develop this further in future years and we'll get out more and have more activities in the neighborhood that evening."
'Seeing that giving spirit'
Rebecca Rosenbauer, a member of Village on College Hill, volunteered her centrally located garage to help distribute the luminarias to residents, in addition to keeping the event organized by addressing logistical issues.
Rosenbauer said she was pleasantly surprised by the response to their first year of Luminaria.
“We were really heartened by how well the community responded, how enthusiastic they were about coming along with us on this first year of doing Luminaria,” she said.
“The first is the messaging of the campaign, which is to be the light in your neighbor's darkest hour, is where we try and remind everyone that many people in our neighborhood, in our communities, are struggling."New Bethany Development Director Tim Burke
New Bethany Development Director Tim Burke said the Village on College Hill group “just kind of came out of the blue,” bringing a “tremendous response” from the people of Easton for the fundraising event.
Burke said the Luminaria serve two vital functions in the neighborhoods where it is held.
“The first is the messaging of the campaign, which is to be the light in your neighbor's darkest hour, is where we try and remind everyone that many people in our neighborhood, in our communities, are struggling," Burke said.
"They may be food insecure; they may be struggling to pay their rent. And you may not know that, and it's just a reminder that there are many people in our community that need our hope and our help and support.
“And then the secondary piece of that is this is a fundraiser to help fund the work of New Bethany. So the funds that we raise helped to keep the operations going here in our housing units, our drop-in center, our food pantry, and our case management services.”
According to Burke, seasonal events such as the Luminaria appear to inspire a strong sense of giving, not just due to the spirit of the season, but the bitter cold weather, as well.
“I think as the weather turns colder, we're more aware of our neighbors who are street level homeless, so we're just more aware of the trials that some of our neighbors are going through," he said.
"We had a huge turnout for our turkey day drive a couple of weeks ago, we had a huge food drive the weekend before Thanksgiving that we had a huge turnout for.
“I find myself running out to the parking lot as people are calling me saying, ‘Hey, I'm here to drop off [something].’ Just today, we got a delivery of feminine hygiene products and blankets for our clients.
"We're just seeing that giving spirit more this time of year than ever.”