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Column: Thanks to those who helped ERDC Under The Lights shine even brighter

I want to extend a huge thank you to the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center volunteers and the Vicksburg and Mississippi communities. We just completed our fourth ERDC Under The Lights event on a very rainy Saturday, Dec. 19. 

As many of you know, ERDC Under The Lights is our annual opportunity to open the Waterways Experiment Station to the community and celebrate the holiday season with our lights and decorations.  The price of admittance this year was a non-perishable food item, a toy or simply a cheerful holiday spirit.    

As we began planning our holiday events in October, there was some trepidation about being able to decorate WES and welcoming everyone on station. But, we quickly realized that this year, ERDC Under The Lights was more important than ever. The WES employees wanted to continue their decorating tradition and celebrate their laboratories and directorates. But, even more so, we wanted to give back to Vicksburg and take care of our community members who may need a little help right now.

 So, over the past few weeks, all the ERDC Elves came to WES to string lights and decorate, while others manned their stations to gather donations, sing carols and spread holiday cheer. They gave hundreds of hours to ensure we were ready, and they braved the cold and the rain to guarantee that ERDC Under The Lights was a huge success. I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Sgt. Bobby Jones of the Vicksburg Police Department for his herculean efforts to control the in-bound traffic from Halls Ferry Road. I can’t thank everyone enough for their hard work.

I also want to extend my most heartfelt thank you to everyone who came out to enjoy all the lights and to share with the Vicksburg community. This year, we expanded the price of admittance to include toy donations, since our normal toy drive was limited due to COVID-19. The response was overwhelming.

Between ERDC Under The Lights and the ERDC Toy Boxes, we collected several hundred toys for local children. The toys ran the gamut from dolls, books, Legos, stuffed animals, all the way up to Guitar Hero and Wii. We had the privilege to deliver the trailer-full of loot to the Good Shepherd Community Center and loved re-filling their Christmas supplies.

This year, we also managed to break our previous records by collecting more than 7,000 pounds of food and $530 to support the Storehouse Community Food Pantry. The donations filled a 40-foot container, which was amazing to see. 

I have a special thank you for Russell Sumrall, a local business owner, who quickly came to our rescue with the container when it was clear that we would need more storage space. Russell then delivered the container to the Food Pantry, where more volunteers from ERDC and the food pantry came together to unload all the goodies. I must admit my favorite volunteer was Cannon Sumrall. At 5-years-old, he’s already a force to be reckoned with and more than held his own, pulling wagons full of food that were at least twice his size.

I’m so thankful to be both the Commander of ERDC and a member of the Vicksburg community. The generosity displayed was absolutely heartwarming and brought the holiday spirit to life again, especially after a very strange and difficult year.

As my husband and I gazed at the Christmas Star on Dec. 21, I couldn’t help but reflect that its first sighting since 1226 was a fitting end to this historic year. The hope it represents lined up perfectly with the outpouring of love and support displayed by ERDC and Vicksburg.

Thank you all!

 

Col. Teresa Schlosser is Commander, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.