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Cheshire Townwide Tradition Lights of Hope Event Today

November 9, 2013 by Special To The ...

Town streets will once again be lit with thousands of luminaries on November 9 with the return of Cheshire’s Lights of Hope, a signature event that raises money for scholarships and to help town residents in need.

Proceeds from the sale of this year’s luminary kits will benefit the Cheshire Community Food Pantry and Cheshire’s Youth and Social Services, agencies that provide food, fuel and housing assistance to struggling town residents.

Proceeds also will go to the Petit Family Foundation, a charity that supports education, particularly for women in the sciences, as well as those affected by chronic illness or violence.

In addition, funds raised will benefit the Cheshire’s Lights of Hope Scholarship Fund. In past years, the fund has provided a scholarship to a graduating high school senior from Cheshire who best exemplified the organization’s mission of volunteerism. To expand its effort to help students pay for a college education, the organization has increased the number of scholarships it will offer in 2014 and will award two scholarships of $2,000 each.

“That’s what our organization is about - - trying to give back to our community to make it a better place,” said Cheshire’s Lights of Hope co-founder Don Walsh. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Cheshire's Lights of Hope crafted a new mission statement last May to better reflect the event’s townwide focus and purpose, which is to “encourage good citizenship and promote volunteerism while embracing and supporting local charities.”

The tradition started in 2005 among a small group of neighbors on Contour Drive, and expanded to a townwide effort in 2007. But Walsh said the mission has broadened over the years as the organization evolved.

“We do this because we know that the people in this town care about their fellow neighbor,” said Walsh. “We have great hope for the future of Cheshire."

The event has raised more than $500,000 for local charities since it began nine years ago. So far, volunteers have sold about $40,000 worth of luminaries for this year’s event through street captain orders and business sponsorships.

Patty Hartmann, executive director of the Cheshire Community Food Pantry, said monetary donations such as those received from the sale of luminaries are crucial to the operation’s success. She said cash donations allow the pantry to stock a more diverse inventory since the funds are used to buy produce and other perishable items to supplement food donated by the community.

“We survive because of the donations in this community. That’s the only way we’re able to keep our doors open,” said Hartmann. “Every donation gives our clients hope as well.”

For those who did not order through a street captain, luminaries can be purchased in sets of 10 for $12 at R.W. Hines Ace Hardware, PAWS Pet Resort and Main Street Caffe starting Oct. 26. There will also be a drive-through luminary station at Cheshire High School starting at 10 a.m. the day of the event.

A 1 p.m. organizers, volunteers, sponsors and representatives of the local charities will kick off the day’s activities with a rally at Cheshire High School, sponsored by outdoor retailer Denali. Following the rally, volunteers will light the “Mile of Hope,” a one-mile stretch of Route 10 in the center of town sponsored by Cheshire businesses.

Residents and businesses elsewhere in town will be asked to light their luminaries starting at 5 p.m. At 7 p.m., town churches will ring their bells as they join together in sending a message of hope.

For more information, visit www.CheshiresLightsofHope.com or text CHESHIRE to 84483.

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