MONONGAH, W.Va. (WBOY) — The town of Monongah in Marion County is rapidly growing its collection of Christmas lights, starting with only seven displays in 2015, but now has more than 60 lights scattered across the area.
President and founder of the Monongah Christmas Lights Fund Susan Sanders said the first seven lights were a gift from the neighboring town of White Hall after she expressed an interest in wanting to start a lights display in her own town.
“It just took off, the townspeople loved it, people started buying their own lights. It just turned out to be such a beautiful thing. And I think the greatest reward of all of this is… the elderly people in town, and the children,” Sanders said. “That’s what this is all about, it’s not for recognition for any of us, it’s to give back to somebody who needs happiness, because lord knows there’s not a lot of happiness in the world today.”
Sanders has spent most of her life living in the town of Monongah, a town where many residents put a strong value on tradition and faith in God. Particularly, she is hoping the children of Monongah will be inspired by seeing what only a handful of individuals were able to build from the ground up and take up the yearly tradition for themselves.
“This next generation is what’s going to replace all of us,” she said.
The annual light display isn’t just for decoration though; it also serves as a memorial for members of the Monongah community who have passed away. Banners are hung to remember them, and many lights have hidden meanings or have sentimental significance.
Because the Monongah Christmas Lights Fund is a relatively small group, one of the biggest hangups each year is finding people to help with actually setting the lights up, despite being one of the most recognizable and widely enjoyed Christmas traditions in Monongah. This year, the lights took about three and a half days to be fully set up, and bad weather prevented them from being set up sooner.
“I know people work, I respect that. I wish that we could get even some high school boys to help or direct traffic, nothing hard,” Sanders said.
However, the group is still finding new members like Sherri Moore who moved to Monongah when her mother fell ill. Moore’s mother said she wanted to move to Monongah because of the stories she heard from her sister, Sherri’s aunt, of how kind the community was and wanted to live in a place where the community would look after its own.
Moore was a member of a similar committee in her own hometown and knew she wanted to help decorate Monongah as soon as she heard about the lights.
“When I saw the lights, I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t know how, but I wanted to volunteer,” Moore said. “Everyone is wonderful, not just because of these Christmas lights. My mama is very very ill, and there’s not a day that goes by that someone from this committee does not ask me how my mom is. I’ve had people from this town that I don’t even know send her flowers. That to me means more than anything else.”
I will say, I love being the mayor of Monongah because I truly believe Monongah is a great community. I think when it comes down to a sense of community and family, I mean, it’s right here. When someone’s house burns down, the community is right there willing to fill up our town hall with donations. If someone’s looking for a Thanksgiving dinner, we have a great food pantry. Monongah is a great town, and I encourage everyone to come down and look at the lights.Johnboy Palmer, Mayor of Monongah
I really love doing this because I see the passion in people’s eyes when we’re out here in the rain and the snow. I really appreciate all the people who help, even the people who aren’t here and do stuff in the background like making cookies and brownies, donating stuff or just generally helping out. I just want to thank everyone for the passion they have for this town.Josh Scritchfield, volunteer
If you would like to support the Monongah Christmas Lights fund, you can find their Facebook page here. Sanders encourages anyone in the area to check out the lights, which can be found all across Monongah, and to stop by the Dairy Kone.