An energetic army of volunteers fanned out from the Old First Ward Community Center Saturday to deck the porches, roofs and windows of nearly 60 homes with twinkling lights, sparkling garland and festive red bows.
The transformation was carried out by B Team Buffalo, a group of young professionals who have decorated a different neighborhood in the city for five years as part of their signature event called “City of Light.”
Close to 100 volunteers from B Team Buffalo and other organizations, including the Queen City Roller Girls, Buffalo Jaycees, Buffalo Niagara 360 and Emerging Business Leaders, started the day with breakfast at the Community Center provided by Coffee Culture on Elmwood, followed by decorating.
“We went door-to-door for months beforehand,” speaking to residents and planning the day, said Elizabeth Callahan, chairwoman of B Team Buffalo, which she described as “a group of young professional leaders who focus on civic action.”
Now in its fifth year, the City of Light has been done on the East Side, in the Seneca-Babcock area, on Massachusetts Avenue and in Riverside. The name of the project is the title given to Buffalo after the 1901 Pan-American Exposition was illuminated by thousands of electric bulbs.
Sponsors and fundraising paid for the decorations, which residents will keep.
“I’ve been stalking sales for weeks,” said Callahan, who purchased some 300 cases of white and multicolored lights along with bows and garland.
At some homes, residents brought out decorations they owned but had not been able to put up, said Callahan.
“People might have gotten older or just aren’t able to do what they had done in past years,” Callahan said.
So the group augmented the occupants’ own decor, which included Santas, snowmen or Nativity scenes.
Roxane Shaw of Tennessee Street smiled as she described the work of the volunteers who descended on her house, equipped with lights, garland, ladders and extension cords.
“They put lights everywhere,” she said. “I was inside and I heard them on the roof, stringing lights there. I was jumping up and down. I always wanted to do that and was never able to. A lot of people down here do decorate for Christmas, but not like this.”
At noon, the volunteers returned to the Community Center for lunch donated by the Roaming Buffalo Food Truck and the start of a children’s carnival that included visits and photos with Santa, holiday-themed games and crafts.
Upon catching sight of Santa, Andy Hollander, 6, had a question: “Have I ever been on your naughty list?” Assured by Santa that he had worked his way off the list, Andy followed up: “Where is the naughty list?” “It’s with Mrs. Claus,” Santa said.
As the carnival continued, the decorating teams finished the few remaining homes. Team leader Amanda Schroeder, an interior designer, stopped at George Brown’s house, which had green and gold garland looped along a fence and both white and multicolored lights sparkling along the roof line.
“They did a good job and were very nice and polite,” said Brown, as he walked out to get a look at the front of the home where he has lived for 58 years. “It sure looks nice, now.”
Poinsettias in a window box and lighted candy canes his family had placed in porch windows added to the home’s festive appearance.
Edwin Mack’s home, a tall duplex, presented a decorating challenge for Schroeder’s team. Chris LaFleur, Megan Lambright, her mother, Kari Lambright, and Adam Berry considered several possible arrangements for the lights as Megan Lambright wound garland around a railing.
“This is really nice,” said Mack, standing in his doorway.
Back in the Community Center, while children applied glitter to paper gingerbread men or built snowmen out of foam balls, more volunteers decorated the center and put lights in a pine tree in the center’s garden, which was planted in the spring by B Team Buffalo. At 5 p.m., neighborhood residents gathered to see the tree lighted, followed by dinner for all provided by DiTondo’s and music by “The Leftovers.”
“I enjoy this sort of thing a lot,” said Berry, who recently moved into the city from the suburbs so he could be more involved in community activities.
As the group hung lights to the tune of Christmas carols, Megan Lambright said, “It’s wonderful to be able to do something like this for people.”