This year’s number is 55,000.
For the third year running, Yvonne McSkimming has donated thousands of lights to adorn the Little Red Church in a foodbank fundraising spectacle. Every night, 55,000 lights flicker on at the Bowen landmark and appreciative locals can leave money in the sturdy red mailbox by the yard entrance.
In its first year, the initiative raised $2,500. Last year, the cash donation box was stolen and the money never recovered. This year, McSkimming is asking anyone desperate enough to consider stealing the box to reach out for help instead. “I’ll give you whatever you need,” she says. “I’ll even do it anonymously.
“We’ll give you the help, just don’t take the money.”
McSkimming says that the money raised through the display aids island people who need a little help over the holiday season. She wants islanders needing a little extra support to “feel loved; feel that someone cares about them.”
McSkimming says that there had been discussion of installing a security camera at the Little Red Church but instead someone will empty the donations box every night and the box itself is chained to the fence.
“If they’re going to steal it, they’re going to need to steal the fence,” she says.
The fence that is too coated in lights.
The light display took two and a half weeks to set up. Noah Pryce-Jones and some of his Home Farm Gardens crew, along with McSkimming, her son and other volunteers painstakingly covered the church and its grounds.
“You can’t do Christmas lights if you don’t love lights,” laughs McSkimming. “55,000 lights is no easy thing to do.”
An extra panel on the back fence meant space for some of the 3,000 additional lights over last year.
“Every year there’s a different combination of lights,” explains McSkimming. She says that while she’s not a big church-goer herself, she thinks the sense of community that the churches on-island bring is important.
“[The display] reminds people what the Little Red Church brings to the island and what it means, along with all the other churches, and we shouldn’t forget that.”
She says that the display is to also help islanders remember what Christmas stands for. “Our differences should not be so wide that we can’t come to the table and respect each other and care for each other.”
In the meantime, if there is someone considering stealing the donations box, McSkimming’s personal number is on the front of the red mailbox. Give her a ring.