Christmas lighting contest underway in Liberty

The storefront of R.A. Smith's in downtown Liberty is lit up for Christmas. Owner Pat Smith uses donated trees to dress up Sam Houston Ave. across from the Liberty County Courthouse. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Greak Cannaday)

Liberty businesses, untangle those light strings and pull out the Christmas décor for a Christmas lighting contest that will benefit abused and neglected children. The contest – sponsored by The Health Fix, Meadow Noyer AllState, Bluebonnet News, Precision Lawns and the Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce – is open to any business in Liberty. Participating businesses do not have to be a chamber members, but chamber membership is always encouraged.

“We are hoping to see the spirit of Christmas in Liberty despite the COVID-19 depression,” said Betty Runkle, owner of The Health Fix. “I want to bring back the Christmas magic to Liberty that was here when I was a little girl. Every business had storefronts decorated with Santa, lights, manger scenes and holiday cheer. We had a lot of department stores in the town square back then. Let’s light Liberty up. I am asking everyone to pitch in and do a little bit of something so we can spread a little bit of hope around town.”

To enter the contest, each participating business will pay a $25 entry fee. All of the proceeds will go to the Rainbow Room, which provides emergency supplies, such as diapers, clothing, formula, bottles, hygiene supplies and toiletries for children who are removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. Oftentimes, these children come into the care of CPS without the basic necessities of life.

The Rainbow Room relies on private and corporate donations to survive, and this year has been particularly hard, said Cyndie Abshire, president of the Liberty County Child Welfare Board.

“We try to meet the needs of all abused and neglected children of Liberty County who come through the CPS system. It’s not just foster children. The Rainbow Room serves the needs of investigation and family-based safety services. The intake division is when caseworkers go out and investigate abuse or neglect. The families might be able to just clean up their home and prevent removal of their children from the home, and the caseworkers help the families clean up their environment in order to prevent removal of the children,” Abshire said.

When that fails and the children are removed from the home, even if they are to be placed with grandparents and other family members, they often come into the system with nothing.

“The caseworkers can pull items from the Rainbow Row to help provide for that child. They can get car seats, hygiene items, clothing and other items to ease in the transition. Removal is the last resort, but when it happens, these children need help from the Rainbow Room,” Abshire said.

This year, money, clothing and toy donations are down, which is why Abshire is so appreciative that contest fees will be donated to the Rainbow Room. For more information on Rainbow Rooms, go online to http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/Rainbow_Rooms/

The deadline for entry into the Christmas lighting contest is Dec. 5. Voting will begin on Dec. 10 and end on Dec. 23. Once your storefront is ready, contact Betty Runkle at The Health Fix Store by calling 936-336-9001 or emailing betty@thehealthfixstore.com. Local photographer Jennifer Greak Cannaday has volunteered to take nighttime photos of the displays. These photos will then be put in a gallery on the Bluebonnet News Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bluebonnetnews, where voting will be conducted through “likes” and “loves.” Each “like” of a photo will count as 1 point while a “Love” will count as two points.

The business with the most points from “likes” or “loves” will be featured in an article on the Bluebonnet News website, https://bluebonnetnews.com/. Bluebonnet News is Liberty County’s leading online news outlet serving Liberty and surrounding counties.

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