BELPRE - People all over Belpre came together Sunday to "light up the town" for the second year in a row.
At around 6 p.m. Sunday, people lit candles in luminarias as part of the Belpre in Bloom project. Luminarias were set up at Belpre Elementary School, along sidewalks in front of people's houses and various locations around the city.
"This is the second year for the luminary project and it has been very successful again," said Leslie Pittenger, organizer of Belpre in Bloom. "It is about bringing the community together."
Although the project is done to raise money for local beautification projects, the project has taken on a special meaning this year as a number of people are using it as a way to honor the 26 people, mostly children, who died over a week ago at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
"It really means a lot to us because of what happened at Sandy Hook," Pittenger said.
Pittenger said the Girl Scouts, students at Belpre Elementary and others were instrumental in bringing the project together by purchasing several luminaria kits and supplementing it with donations from parents and local businesses.
"That has made all of this possible," she said. "Belpre is a very similar sized community (to Newtown, Conn.), a similar size school and that our students could come together and do this for the Christmas season, it just means a lot."
There were over 2,000 luminaries put out around the city Sunday with around a thousand at Belpre Elementary School. Kits were purchase by individual citizens and businesses and put out Sunday night.
"The elementary school really picked it up and ran with it and made it this fabulous thing," Pittenger said.
Principal Bernie Boice, who was out with a number of students helping to light the luminaries Sunday, said the school is always looking for ways to connect with the community.
"The community does a lot for us," he said. "We wanted to something for it and this is a good way to get the kids involved."
Organizers asked everyone who purchased luminaria kits to place them along streets, driveways and walkways in an effort to light up the entire city.
The project is a fundraiser for the beautification of the city for the Belpre in Bloom project. Organizers want to continue to make it an annual event.
Belpre in Bloom is a volunteer organization that is part of the larger America in Bloom, a charitable organization to promote nationwide beautification through education and community involvement. Both local and state groups meet these goals by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.
Over $1,000 was raised this year. Money will go towards summer projects, including plantings of Elephant Ears in eight big pots at Howes Grove Park as well as other beautification projects around the city.
The project did better this year because last year it was done on a rainy day. Participants had sunny skies to lay the luminaries out and a brisk evening to light them.
"We had the perfect day to do this here this year," Pittenger said.