Saturday, September 20, 2014

Christmas Eve tradition still burning at Rockwood Acres

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 12/16/2013

Liza Jaworski grew up as a spectator. Today, she’s part of keeping the tradition burning.

For as long as residents at Rockwood Acres, Rockwood Drive and 15th Street, Ottawa, can remember, the neighborhood has joined together each Christmas Eve to line streets and driveways with luminaries, Jaworski said.

Liza Jaworski grew up as a spectator. Today, she’s part of keeping the tradition burning.

For as long as residents at Rockwood Acres, Rockwood Drive and 15th Street, Ottawa, can remember, the neighborhood has joined together each Christmas Eve to line streets and driveways with luminaries, Jaworski said.

“I remember coming through on Christmas Eve with my family,” she said. “It’s fun to see a whole new generation of families doing this with some of the core [members] that have been here for 25 to 30 years.”

It takes everyone in the neighborhood banding together to get the supplies for the luminaries, she said, but everyone helps out. Sand, strong paper bags, candles and more are all donated or bought by the neighbors, she added.

“We get together and have an assembly line process,” she said. “We have people who do the bags and open them and then we have the sand crew and distribution crew that puts the luminaries out.”

The hustle and bustle of cooking and family gatherings hasn’t stopped neighbors from making time each Christmas Eve day to gather, organize and display the luminaries, Jaworski said.

“We’ve been in the neighborhood for four years, but we cherish it and it has become a tradition for us,” she said. “As long as we’re here, we will be participating and we’ll change our plans to make sure we’re here to do this with the kids because it’s neat.”

The luminary display draws people from across Franklin County, she said, and cars often drive through the neighborhood into the late hours of the night.

“I’m on the Rockwood board and the homeowners’ association and one thing I’d mentioned was leveraging the fact we have all this traffic coming through,” Jaworski said. “We could also give back to the community and have an opportunity to have a bin for donations like for canned goods, non-perishable items that could be put at the end of the luminaries exiting onto 15th Street as people are leaving.”

Luminaries are expected to be lit at about 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Driving through to see the luminaries always has and will continue to be free, she said, but collecting canned goods or non-perishable items would allow the neighbors to help the community even more.

“We want to give back to Hope House and do something like that, which we’ve never done before,” she said. “But also bring awareness to this neat tradition we have here in Ottawa.”

Jaworski didn’t grow up in Rockwood Acres, she said, but getting to be on the other side of things makes the tradition even more special.

“There’s not many times you are on the opposite side of it and doing it and putting it all together,” she said. “Coming at it with the perspective that my kids can help, just seeing my 4-year-old be a part of it, he actually gets to see how fun it feels to do a neighborhood event like this. It’s a neat feeling to know we still have a neighborhood that cares and has continued after all these years and through the changed ownership that it’s still a tradition that stays alive.”

Families of those who live in the neighborhood have played a part in putting the display together as well, Jaworski said. If a neighbor happens to be out of town during Christmastime, families work together to line the driveways while they’re away.

“Last year we had Christmas Eve here and we had my family and my husband’s family who helped with the lighting piece,” she said. “We make sure that even when [neighbors] are not here, people just fill in the gaps wherever we need to.”

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