12/24/10 — Neighborhood lights up holidays

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Neighborhood lights up holidays

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 24, 2010 1:46 PM

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Pastor Edmund Edwards is proud that he and his neighbors bring joy to the community with their light display. Edwards started the holiday tradition of decorating his house in the early 1990s and his neighbors in Robinson Place soon followed suit. Now the whole block is lit up, drawing hundreds of sightseers.

Robinson Place is a neighborhood where neighbors watch out for each other.

But when Christmas comes around, the families who live along the street in southern Goldsboro take on another role -- elves.

A neighborhood should be more than just a cluster of houses, the residents decided years ago -- and since then, they have been a family.

"We began looking out for one another, anything that would go on in a family," said Pastor Edmund Edwards, a long-time resident. "It just brought us closer together."

There were fewer houses 30 years ago when their "family" was formed, probably between 18 and 20, recalled resident Comatha Johnson, who created a periodic newsletter called "The Communication of Care and Concern."

"Every time there's a need, I let people know if someone is sick or passes -- we just lost two neighbors -- but I always do it at Christmas," she said.

One day, in the early 1990s, the suggestion was made to decorate the street, in unison.

It all began with luminaries -- white paper bags filled with sand and a candle.

"It was a beautiful sight, but you had to do a lot of work to do it," Edwards said. "It would burn sometimes and in bad weather, you couldn't use them.

"I prayed about something that we could use and the Lord gave me a vision -- I developed what I call the 'global lights,' the globes on top of the candles and a jar lid."

Of course, individual residents could add their own touches, Ms. Johnson said. But there have always been the "unity pieces" -- bows on the mailbox, palm trees, lights along the curb.

"Every year we might add a piece and everybody will have the same thing," she said. "The (globes) 20 years ago were symbolic. Then we added the palm trees six or seven years ago, bows on the mailbox -- if you come down the street, you'll see that everybody has those and the palm trees.

"There are certain things we wanted to do to unify, but when you go into the yard, that's where individuality comes in."

As the neighborhood has grown, so has the annual decorating theme's popularity, the residents said.

It quickly spread to adjacent streets, first Harris Street and eventually others.

"Everybody said, 'Oh, these are so pretty,'" Ms. Johnson said. "Winslow Circle and Hamilton Drive and some of those other areas, they kind of got the idea of doing the unity piece, too," Ms. Johnson said.

This year, the Robinson Street contingent added something at the development's entrance, a sign paying tribute to three neighbors who died this year.

Which is right in line with what residents there do best -- care about each other.

"We're all getting older, people need help," Edwards said. "I thank God I'm still able to go and do. I like to see us in unity."

Both Edwards and Ms. Johnson said they view the holiday-time decoration effort as a ministry of sorts.

"It's like I tell the neighbors in the (newsletter) -- it's a ministry of hope that reflects caring and sharing, which is symbolic of the season because we have so many people come on our street," Ms. Johnson said. "It's reflective of our willingness to express love to our fellow man by what we do.

"It costs money and it takes time, but we show our love for Jesus by the way we treat our fellow man and the unity piece is another opportunity to show love for other people, not only at Christmas but at other times."

"We have had so many spectators for years and years, they have been coming through and sometimes they were so close, it was like a traffic jam," Edwards said. "But we enjoyed it because we feel like this is a ministry to Wayne County and Goldsboro because people come from miles around to this area."

Edwards said he sometimes gets a chance to ask spectators where they're from, and has had such diverse responses as Raleigh, Wilson, Clinton and Calypso.

For those who dwell there year-round, though, it's been a blessing to welcome visitors as well as new neighbors.

"We had a newly married couple move in this year and say how much they appreciated being in a place where this kind of love and concern is readily shown and they can blend right in," Ms. Johnson said. "A lot of times you move into a neighborhood and you don't even know your neighbors.

"It means a lot to me to be in a neighborhood where people can show love and concern for one another and do it consistently."