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The Day – Making spirits bright: Mystic family decorates for charity

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Mystic — The Shaffer household figured that, not solely do we want somewhat Christmas cheer this yr, however we additionally want a great dose of hope for the longer term — and lots of additionally want meals to get by way of these arduous occasions.

So, with a flick of some switches and a Zoom assembly and Fb Stay occasion Friday night, attended by dozens of relations and mates throughout the nation, the Shaffers introduced all these themes collectively in a blinding show of blinking lights set to peppy Christmas music at their 76 Judson Ave. house.

“Good!” “Superior!” “That was incredible!” “Wow,” got here the response from the net viewers, a few of whom sported Santa hats, lighted necklaces and festive shirts and sweaters. “I like the brand new additions.”

Usually, the Shaffer household hosts a light-weight up barbeque and asks the 50 to 100 attendees to convey a brand new toy to donate to the Salvation Military, the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Heart or Groton Social Companies.

An in-person celebration was out of the query this yr, Diane Shaffer mentioned, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However she and her husband, Mark, grown sons Robert and Jonathan and a bunch of prolonged household and mates didn’t need the road or the spirit of their annual effort to go darkish.

This yr’s theme, “Hope,” flashed in white lights from the home roof Friday evening. On the garden under, a number of lighted bushes danced with blinking lights set to music on the household’s personal low-power radio station, 93.1 FM — sturdy sufficient solely to succeed in about 150 toes from the home, Diane Shaffer mentioned.

A standard Nativity scene, Snoopy’s doghouse, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, the Island of Misfit Toys and flashing sweet canes accomplished the scene. One snowman has a facemask.

“Yearly we choose a message,” Diane Shaffer mentioned. “This yr’s message is hope, for lots of causes. There’s a lot hope for the tip to this craziness, and a protected vaccine, and hope for a peaceable transition of energy in our nation. And hope for individuals who can’t put sufficient meals on the desk.”

As a nurse supervisor for the Visiting Nurses Affiliation of Southeastern Connecticut, she is aware of the affect the coronavirus has had on the area.

As an alternative of toy donations, the household is asking that guests coming to admire the show donate nonperishable meals gadgets to the gathering bin that will likely be positioned on the finish of the driveway as soon as this weekend’s heavy rain and wind finish. The meals will likely be donated to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Heart, the St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen in Norwich, Groton Social Companies and different native meals banks.

The Shaffers are also asking anybody wishing to make money donations to take action on to this system of their alternative. Mark Shaffer mentioned even earlier than the lights had been turned on Friday, some individuals already had donated to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Heart.

The Judson Avenue neighborhood has embraced the Shaffer’s Christmas show annually, and to make sure relations keep optimistic, the sunshine show will run from 5 to 9 p.m. every day.

“To be type to our neighbors, they go off at 9 p.m.,” Diane Shaffer mentioned. “We’ve got nice neighbors who embrace this.”

The Shaffers began adorning their yard for Christmas 22 years in the past, when Bobby and Jonathan had been younger boys. Mark Shaffer made two 6-foot-tall snowmen decorations. The household added lights to the porch. Once they moved two years later to their present house, they invited mates to assist enhance. One good friend recommended having a barbecue with a fireplace to roast scorching canine. The events stored rising, and the household began asking for donations of toys for charities. They yearly have collected and donated 75 to 100 toys, Diane Shaffer mentioned.

They add or change options annually. 5 years in the past, Diane purchased the low-power FM broadcast station for Mark as a Christmas reward. They broadcast a loop of about 10 to 12 Christmas songs, paying for the licensing rights by way of the printed firm.

Mark and Diane Shaffer’s two sons now are grown, however the vacation enthusiasm hasn’t waned. Bobby, 28, lives in Groton along with his fiancée, Katrina, and Jonathan, 26, lives along with his dad and mom in Mystic. Each nonetheless assist arrange the lights annually.

“It began with simply 5 of us and grew through the years to family and friends,” Diane Shaffer mentioned. “It’s most likely one of many issues that I get pleasure from probably the most on the holidays.”

c.bessette@theday.com



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