ROXBURY, NJ - You can thank Danny and Marianne D'Amico for the festive glow lighting up the night sky to the east of the Succasunna ShopRite Parking lot.
Janet Wald, director of Roxbury Social Services Department, sure does.
The radiance shining through the trees is coming from an elaborate Christmas display taking up most of the D'Amico's front yard. The couple is hoping those who come to their 23 Walker Ave. creation will spread the joy by leaving a few dollars or food items for Roxbury Social Services.
"They did this last year too," said Wald. "They did a huge display and they had a donation bin."
When Christmas was over, the D'Amicos paid a visit to the Social Services building and handed Wald more than $500 they'd collected from visitors. Outside his Christmas display on Thursday night, D'Amico said he hopes to do the same, or better, this year.
He stood next to a sign that welcomed people to his home. "Please share in the joy of our Christmas decor," says the sign. "We love to decorate for others to enjoy. Although you are not obligated, we are accepting nonperishable food items and monetary donations."
The D'Amicos have also created a Facebook page that includes photos of their front yard Halloween and Christmas displays.
Wald said she "could definitely use the money" as her public assistance account is dwindling. Among other things, the money helps the less fortunate in Roxbury pay for heat and electricity, she said.
The D'Amicos are "just amazing people," Wald said. "When they came with the money, I was, like, 'What made you decide to do this?' and they said, `We love the holidays and we love decorating. So we decided we might as well do it and get something out of it for the less fortunate.'"
Kids visiting the D'Amico's extensive, corner-lot display can grab free candy canes. The family also provides paper and pencils for youngsters to send letters to Santa. A Letters to Santa mailbox is right there.
D'Amico, 44, said Santa and one of his elves will be at his home from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 15 and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 16, weather permitting.
"We especially love to decorate for Christmas because honestly, we love Christmas and everything about it," D'Amico said. "The Christmas Spirit still does something to me. It motivates me. It makes me extra happy, and then my happiness spreads outward towards others. Kindness flows from one to another and life is good again."
D'Amico said his parents used to drive him and his sister around to look at Christmas displays, a ritual that sowed the seeds for his efforts.
"It was amazing," he said. "Every year when Christmas was coming, I got excited ... for all things Christmas, especially the decorations. Here I am at 44 years old and I love Christmas just as much as I did when I was a kid."
He said he and his wife always tried to nicely decorate their house, but last year they "decided to step it up a notch." They set up a table on the front lawn with the Letters to Santa mailbox "with hopes that some parents would bring their children by to see the Christmas display and maybe sit down, write a letter to Santa and have a candy cane on us."
Although many cars drove past the display, only a few stopped to let kids write the Santa letters, D'Amico said. The signs the family put up this year are an attempt to get visitors to stop, spend some time and "share the joy," he said.
The D'Amicos are not alone in Roxbury when it comes to having a Christmas lights display where are urged to make a donation. Rob and Melissa Katz, of 56 Parkview Drive in Succasunna, are using their huge lights display to raise money for Matt Adonis, a Roxbury 4th-grader fighting a brain tumor.
On Dec. 16, from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m., they will be giving out hot chocolate and donut bites. Santa will be coming on a Roxbury firetruck at 7 p.m. and the Pink Heals of Bergen County will give Adonis a special gift at 7:30 p.m., said Katz.