Holiday lights help brighten spirits as pandemic worsens

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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) The holidays were months ago, but people around Rutland and the world are putting lights back up to spread hope and support.

"We're so close to breaking 9,000 right now," Nancy Greenwood said.

Greenwood created the Facebook page Help Vermont LIGHT UP the World as a way for people to share their hope and lights.

"When I first started it I thought well, maybe my normal 20 friends will actually participate with me and put up lights. And then that was Friday night at like 10:30 and then I woke up Saturday morning and my phone is like, exploding," Greenwood said.

She noticed the Rutland Regional Medical Center had re-hung their Christmas star. The man behind the idea was Howard Stratton, an HVAC tech at the hospital.

"They're coming to work with a lot of apprehensions and I thought, you know, when we put up the star for the holiday season, it brings a lot of people joy and I think there's a lot of inspiration there and a calming effect," Stratton said.

But he won't take credit for starting this wave of light.

"I may have started the little thing, but I think the whole community got it rolling. All I had was an idea of what makes me comfortable and gives me a lot of comfort and to just have that done and to have that rolling so much, that is Rutland," Stratton said.

The Facebook page, originally for the Rutland area, has taken off in just days, reaching people worldwide.

"We have people even in Ireland who have responded and are lighting things up in Ireland. It's great to see. Rutland comes together on such a small little community and then it just grew into Vermont and then into the United States and now into all different countries. So, it's pretty amazing to see the impact you can have," Morgan Blanchard said.

Blanchard joined the Facebook group and asked her fiance to make a star. That's when they thought some local businesses might want them. Within two minutes of asking, they had about 50 requests. It's now well over 300.

"We're going to keep going until we run out of lights. We're happy to make as many 30 or 100 a day. We're going to keep going until we run out," Blanchard said.

"A lot of people are building stars, those great big huge stars. So, I think our next shortage will be Christmas lights," Greenwood said.

As Greenwood says, the Facebook group is really putting the distance in social distancing.