It’s the time of year to light up our houses and decorate the streets, and I know there are friendly light competitions going on out there.

But one West Ashley neighborhood has found a way to illuminate the streets and give money to charity at the same time.

Mary Lou Waitschies, who lives in Ashland Plantation, says her neighborhood has developed a way to “pay it forward” and have a great time in the process.

Last year, she says, members of the neighborhood association decided they wanted to create an annual Luminary Event for Charity. She said they figured there were 100 houses in the neighborhood and set a modest goal of raising about $2,000 from the event. They weren’t sure how many people would participate.

Neighbors got together at one house on a Sunday evening and filled paper bags with sand and candles. As fast as they could fill the bags, teens drove the bags around in the golf carts to deliver them. Shortly after that, another group drove around to light the candles.

The event was so successful, the neighborhood raised $2,900 for Tricounty Family Ministries.

Waitschies says the idea is an easy one that any neighborhood could adopt, and it’s a great way for people to bond. After the lighting, a group went around singing Christmas carols, and the lack of singing ability made everyone laugh and realize that maybe singing was not the best way to reach out.

“We had a good time, though,” she says.

“Our neighborhood is a really close one, and everyone knows each other. The singing was a chance to get people who might not normally come out to come to the door.”

She says that even in times of trouble, neighbors in their small community take care of each other.

“Neighbors were recently in a motorcycle accident, and we completely took care of them with food during the hospital stay and when they got home.”

This year, they have chosen the Hospice of Charleston’s inpatient facility in Mount Pleasant as their charity.

The lighting event is very low key, and the neighborhood association buys the supplies, so all most residents have to do is write a check. They also are contemplating what their event will be after the lighting at 5:30 p.m. One idea: a decorated golf cart parade.

So far this year, they have already raised $400, and they still have their Christmas party on Dec. 7 to go before they light up the night on Dec. 16. They hope to raise more money than last year, says Waitschies.

If you want to see the neighborhood lit with the luminaries, go up S.C. Highway 61 and turn right on Assembly Drive just after Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church. Follow Assembly to the back of the neighborhood.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at or 937-5557.