Beautiful event for wonderful cause
The evening of Dec. 9 marked the 20th anniversary of a beloved tradition in Bethlehem and throughout the Lehigh Valley, Luminaria Night. On that night rows of white paper bags holding a lighted candle anchored in sand are arranged in rows up and down streets, creating a magnificent sight. All of the money collected for the Luminaria kits goes to New Bethany Ministries, which serves the needs of the poor.
New Bethany, an interfaith ministry, began in the early 1980s to alleviate poverty in Southside Bethlehem. Throughout its thirty-two year history, New Bethany has provided a host of services to the very needy, including meals, clothing, showers, permanent housing for the homeless, and financial management for the mentally ill. This nonprofit agency is supported by numerous local groups as well as religious organizations, individual donors, foundations, organizations, and corporations.
However, New Bethany’s biggest source of support is Luminaria Night. The fundraiser could not take place without the involvement of numerous volunteers. Some prepare and distribute the Luminaria kits at the Memorial Pool Building on Illick’s Mill Road. Others include regional captains who make sure that everyone in a neighborhood has a chance to participate, and block captains who take orders for the kits, pick up the kits at the Pool Building, and deliver them to their neighbors.
Luminaria’s beginnings were modest. In 1997, three women, DeAnn Martin, Donna Acerra, and Joanne Anderson, sold kits on three streets and raised $300 to benefit a needy family. In subsequent years several charities, including New Bethany, benefited from the event. So impressed were the three women with the work of New Bethany that in 2003 they affiliated permanently with the organization. In the sixteen years since, a total of $750,000 has been raised. In 2016, 3,700 participants raised $92,000. The growth of this effort on behalf of New Bethany has been, as Joanne Anderson observed, “one little light at a time.”