By Stacy Clements, Program Coordinator

Swarthmore’s annual New Year’s Day luminaria lighting is a stunning site and a true gift from the community to the scholars of A Better Chance Strath Haven.  With the support of many community members, the Luminaria Committee raises over $20,000 for A Better Chance Strath Haven, each year.

The luminaria lighting is vital to the sustainability of the ABC Strath Haven program as it contributes significantly to the overall program budget which supports the scholars.   It literally “takes a village” to generate the annual funds which come from the efforts of many different community groups of all generations working together for months before the January 1st lighting.

Each year a web of volunteers inspire almost every member of the Swarthmore community to ask for their contribution to buy a candle and a white bag filled with sand.  Throughout the fall and the week between Christmas and New Year’s, hundreds of additional volunteers scoop sand and fill orders for more than 18,000 luminaria. On January 1st at 5 p.m. members of the community light their luminaria and the magnitude of the town’s generosity is aglow.

Margie Baker, Linda Heffernan, and Ann Papa present ABC SH board president, Jane Billings, and scholars Xavier, Joe, and Amanda with a check from Luminaria.

There are literally dozens of volunteer leaders and block captains who contribute to this initiative, but many hands make light work!  The Swarthmore Rotary Club and the Strath Haven High School National Honor Society have supported the Luminaria effort since its inception and have offered again this year many hours of assistance moving sand, filling orders and lighting luminaria on January 1st along Route 320 and at Plush Mills.  Local Boy Scouts along with more than seventy-five residents join in filling orders for two days before New Year’s Day.

Many other groups and individuals have helped as well including the Strath Haven High School Tenth Grade Class Cabinet, Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, and Trinity Episcopal Youth Groups, along with A Better Chance scholars. The Peichel family hosted the early fills in their garage and Jim Belanger and Jay King offered their trucks to transport sand and move the filled bags to CADES.   CADES annually offers their Rutgers Avenue building for the pre-fill efforts and several of their staff along with the Swarthmore Borough Public Works Department offer their assistance.  The Swarthmore Co-op collects egg boxes for months to hold the filled luminaria and Kelsey Hansen organized this year’s luminaria sales at the Co-op.  The luminaria candles are organized by Jennifer Lenway who recruits her own team of volunteers to assist with candle counting in their homes during the month of December.

Annually one of the most beautiful displays of luminaria is on the hill leading to Plush Mills Senior Living Community on Plush Mill Road in Wallingford.  The Plush Mill community’s residents annually contribute more than $1,800. The Strath Haven Condominiums also make a spectacularly long display along Harvard and Yale, thanks to the efforts of Ann Hansen and her team of volunteers.

ABC Strath Haven thanks everyone who buys a luminaria and/or donates their time for “Lighting Up The Lives” of our students.  We are deeply grateful for this amazing support, which is so instrumental to our program’s sustainability.