While most people in October were thinking about hunting, fishing or even raking leaves as their outdoor activities, students and staff from the Lewis-Clark State College Work Scholars program as well as others from the college were getting in the holiday spirit.
The group was among the first volunteers to put up Christmas lights and help decorate Locomotive Park in Lewiston. The park is in its 26th year of holding Winter Spirit, which features holiday decorations including trees covered in colorful lights, dancing penguins, a decorated locomotive train engine, and other holiday fanfare.
The display, which is lit up every night from around Thanksgiving through the New Year, is free and open to the public to visit.
To put everything together, the Winter Spirit Committee relies on volunteers to help hang the lights and perform other tasks. Volunteers usually gather on weekends starting in October and it takes about 5-6 weekends to complete the work, depending on the number of volunteers.
LC State’s Work Scholars program, which started in the fall of 2015, is designed to help reduce student loan debt. Students who are accepted into the program work on or off campus during the academic year and receive a tuition scholarship and bi-weekly stipend to cover expenses. Students also are required to do volunteer work.
Since its inception, Work Scholars have regularly volunteered to help take down the Winter Spirit light displays in January and have become efficient at it, said Erin Cassetto, the director of Student Employment – Career Center & LC Work Scholars. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic created a shortage of volunteers to help put up the lights. During LC’s Virtual Career Fair in early October, a Winter Spirit committee member asked Cassetto if her group would be interested in helping with set up this year.
“We always have a heck of a lot of fun helping with Winter Spirit group so we thought yeah, we can do that,” Cassetto said. “The Winter Spirit Committee then decided to set aside an entire grove of trees just for LC to decorate in Red and Blue. You can see them at the entrance to the park.”
Cassetto and the Work Scholar students put out the word to the rest of the campus and wound up with close to 50 volunteers, 35 of which were Work Scholar students and staff, to help over the two days. Other volunteers included staff from the Human Resources and Foundation offices, and other LC State students, faculty and staff.
Most of the work they did was putting lights on trees, but the volunteers also decorated most of the archways on the paved walk through the park.
Cassetto said the Winter Spirit Committee is well organized and know what lights go with what project. She said they have supervisors for each part of the park and taught the volunteers how do decorate the archways.
“Each tree has a tag identifying how the trunk and treetop should be decorated,” Cassetto said. “They have it down to a fine art.”
Unfortunately for the group, a downpour took place during the decorating on the first day, but the group remained committed and worked through it. As a reward, organizers set aside three trees in the outer area for the group to decorate in blue and red lights only, which are the LC State school colors.
“I hope we can do it again,” Cassetto said. “It was a lot of fun. I would love to see an LC sponsored decorating weekend again and get the whole LC Family out. That would really be a blast.”
Cassetto said the Work Scholars will help take down the lights in January, which will be their first volunteer project of the semester. Work Scholar students must participate in at least seven volunteer projects each semester.
To help the LC Work Scholars take down the lights, contact Cassetto at either [email protected] or 208-792-2084.
To learn more about the LC Work Scholars program, visit www.lcsc.edu/work-scholars.