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Night of Lights brings neighbors closer

December 21, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- Despite high winds and low temperatures, Judy Wheeler said a nice crowd of residents of the 100 and 200 blocks of South Prospect Street were involved in Sunday's Night of Lights.

"Neighbors put out luminarias at their homes," Wheeler said of the annual program sponsored by Neighborhoods 1st. The goal, as in years past, is to bring neighbors closer together during the holiday season and beyond.

By 5:10 p.m., the 100 block was all lit up and preparations were in place for the 200 block, Wheeler said.

In addition to the luminarias, the event Sunday also included neighbors filling grocery bags with nonperishable foods for food banks, Wheeler said.

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There was even some caroling.

Wheeler said she and her husband, Winslow, moved to Hagerstown about a year ago from Gaithersburg, Md.

"We really enjoy the small-town living here," she said.

Wheeler is vice president of the Historic Heights group of Neighborhoods 1st. The group's president is Deb Reichmann.

One of the newer groups, Historic North, was planning to place 550 lights in its neighborhood this year. That neighborhood is in the Hamilton Boulevard and Oak Hill Avenue areas north of the railroad tracks.

According to Cindy Blackstock, Hagerstown's community development coordinator, the Neighborhood 1st groups created a ribbon of light linking neighborhoods together Sunday during the annual Night of Lights.

It can be difficult during the winter season to stay in touch with neighbors, Blackstock said. The event offers residents the opportunity to stroll through their neighborhoods, enjoy the warmth and glow of the luminarias, and visit with one another.

"This project is just one of many that Neighborhoods 1st groups participate in collectively," Blackstock said.

Neighborhoods 1st is a program initiated more than a decade ago by the City of Hagerstown to encourage residents to be responsible for the well-being of their neighborhoods.

Working in partnership with the city, these groups have been given the opportunity to identify, plan for and implement improvements in their neighborhoods, she said.

The program's slogan is "To live in a better neighborhood without moving."

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