Lehigh to light up for holidays

Year after year, Lehigh has been in the dark when it came to having city Christmas lights during the holidays. But this year, Lehigh will shine, thanks to donations from other Kansas communities.

According to Ruth Coyle, a Lehigh resident and the one who contacted area communities, the city of Lehigh will receive used Christmas decorations from 12 Kansas communities?some as far away as Minneapolis and Marysville.

?It?s truly just a grass-roots effort and I just happened to be the one who made the phone calls and e-mails,? Coyle said.

The grass-roots effort is one community project intended to be a base for a new Lehigh PRIDE group expected to become official in April.

The people of Lehigh decided it was time to decorate for Christmas after 18 to 25 years of having no city decorations.

?I (first) contacted the Marion County towns around to see if they had any used Christmas decorations that they were willing to donate or sell cheap, because online I couldn?t find any, and new they?re between $400 and $800?Lehigh can?t afford that,? Coyle said.

?But the people wanted Christmas decorations, so we decided as a grass-roots effort we would do this.?

Through Margo Yates at the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Coyle was put in touch with Marci Penner, executive director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. After Penner reported Lehigh?s need to her contacts around the state, Coyle received between 20 to 30 e-mails per day.

?It?s been just fantastic,? Coyle said.

Of the 12 communities sending used Christmas decorations to Lehigh, 10 donated the items without charge.

While Coyle doesn?t know how much they will receive, there are already plans to donate excess materials to two additional Marion County communities looking for used Christmas decorations.

?We don?t know of the condition, or how many, or anything like that, but when I was calling the various communities in Marion County I found a couple others that were also looking for Christmas lights,? Coyle said. ?So what we can?t use, we?re going to donate to those towns.?

Despite the overwhelming response, the city ran into a snag when it found it would need to add eletrical recepticles to each lampost. The project will cost the city about $800.

?That?s going to be a real kicker,? Coyle said. ?So some of the donated (decorations) that are repairable, we?re going to try to repair and sell to area businesses here in Lehigh, or residences, to have the money to make the plugs.?

Once funding is available, two local electricians will build the recepticles and Westar Energy will install them.

While the date of the lighting is yet unknown, Coyle, along with other Lehigh residents, have been overwhelmed by the response of Kansas communties.

?It?s restoring my faith,? Coyle said. ?To the community, it?s kind of proving that of the people, by the people, for the people still exists.?

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