In Towson, Maryland, there is a street called Dunkirk Road. There are 32 homes in Dunkirk, where families of various races, religions and political opinions live. The neighbors are all close friends.
So when Matt Riggs, who lives down the block with his wife Kerry, found out that his neighbor across the street was battling depression in December 2020, he decided to spread some Christmas cheer. Riggs, who had been going through tough times during the pandemic, hung up his Christmas lights early because he needed some cheer. He managed to cross one of the street wires, over a tree, and connected it to his neighbor’s house.
Soon they were going house to house, turning on their lights until the entire block was turned on. Riggs told CNN they all did it again this year, with a neighbor making a metal sign by hand that reads “Love lives here.”
“I was decorating for the holidays and I was a little early. It was actually before Thanksgiving, but it was such a dark time for all of us. I really didn’t want to wait any longer,” recalls Riggs from last season. “I wanted to go ahead and turn things on. So I was climbing the tree and turning on the lights on my tree and I wanted to see if I could get them to cross the street. And I was so excited when I did make them cross the street and stay on.”
Riggs’ neighbor, Leaba Commisso, was next.
“Once Matt did it, I talked to my neighbor across the street and said, ‘Hey, let’s do it too,'” he says. “It’ll close the block, you’ll go through a stoplight, and then when you exit the block, you’ll come out of it. But it’s a lot harder to hang those lights than you might imagine.”
That’s where Tom Desert came in. He’s the helpful neighbor who soon figured out how to ride strand after strand, canopying over the block and planting anchors in each lawn to hold strands in place.
“Once there was a job to do, Tom came out and was helping us because it’s so difficult. They’re heavy, those lights,” says Commisso. “Tom was able to turn on our lights and then we said, everyone, let’s do it.”
She says a group of neighbors got in the car and “cleaned up Home Depot.”