One Howard Beach resident is taking his holiday lights to the extreme, but all for a great cause.
For the second year in a row, Michael Giglio of the Hamilton Beach section of the neighborhood has used his love for Christmas decorations to help benefit the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, by asking for donations from those who come to visit the impressive light display at his home at 102-24 Rau Court — “right near the ‘train to the plane’ near Howard Beach,” he said.
This year, Giglio has used nearly 45,000 lights, with displays ranging from Santa Claus, snowmen, hot air balloons, snowflakes, Christmas trees, candy canes, popular cartoon characters and, of course, a Nativity scene.
Right near the Nativity display, Giglio will have a donation box where passersby can place money, 100 percent of which will go directly to the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, which services the communities of Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach and Rockwood Park.
He chose the local Fire Department as the recipient for the donations he collects because the firefighters are always there for the community, and Giglio knows they’d come to his rescue in the event of an emergency.
“I feel [as if] the men, when I need them, are there for me. They’re there for me, [so] why not me be there for them? If my house goes on fire, or something happens and I need an ambulance, they’re there for me,” Giglio said.
He also said that the Fire Department could use donations since it is not federally funded, and he wanted to reassure any visitors who might wish to donate that 100 percent of the money would go to the department.
“They’re not federally funded; they’re a nonprofit organization and they work on donations themselves, and I want the people to know that who do come by and throw a donation in the box to be sure inside their hearts that that money will go to them. It might go for life preservers, it might go for oars, it might go towards training, anything they need. I do not take any money for decorations or electricity costs to myself. This is my Christmas gift to them.”
Last year, Giglio opened the donation box on Dec. 20, to find only $50 had been donated. He then took it upon himself to go door-to-door on his block and ask for donations for the Fire Department and ended up raising $457 more. This is something he hopes to not have to do again this year and that more people will donate.
In addition to the donation box, Giglio will be outside his house every night while his lights are on display to meet and chat with visitors, ask them how they found out about his display, and figure out what he can do for next year’s display.
Setting up the massive display, however, does come with some problems.
“I found out that in Hamilton Beach I was not just facing the cold, I was facing the flooding, being near the water and the wind,” Giglio said. “Most of my decorations are up very, very high. I was very limited to do what I really wanted to do. I decided everything in my yard was to be put up on top of cinder blocks or wooden blocks to raise it up.”
Giglio lights up his yard from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, depending on the weather, from Dec. 1, 2016, to Jan. 2, 2017. This weekend starting at 7 p.m., he will have a special guest on hand to treat the visitors, as Santa Claus himself will be there.