For a military family in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the holidays just got a little bit brighter despite some trying months ahead. Sergeant First Class (SFC) Steven Brown will soon be deployed to the Middle East and will be away from his family for Christmas and the months to follow. But before he left, SFC Brown decided he wanted to give his family a little Christmas cheer to lift their spirits during this difficult time.
“We got a call about a month and a half ago from SFC Brown,” recalls Nikos Phelps, Christmas Décor of Harrisburg’s Chief Elf Dispatcher. “He told us that he normally did the holiday lights for his family but that he didn’t have a lot of time and also did not want his wife to have to take them down. He asked us to surprise them.”
Phelps says that everyone was touched by what SFC Brown was looking to do for his family—so they decided to go all out, at least tripling what SFC Brown had paid for his lighting package.
“We really wanted to make this as awesome as possible,” Phelps says. “A lot of times the focus is on service members and what they’ve sacrificed for our country. But this also puts the focus on the family members who are making sacrifices, too.”
Phelps says that he had the honor of surprising SFC Brown’s family and letting them know what their husband/dad had done for them.
“I knocked on the door that morning to let them know he’d called us and made these plans for them,” Phelps recalls. “We got to work and the family had time to call other friends and family members for a big reveal that night. It was a really emotional and special moment for everyone, and I hope it makes them feel a little bit more like it’s Christmastime, even though they are without a loved one this year.”
The story was also picked up by local media.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Phelps has done something like this. Over the years, he has donated time and services to other families in need.
“The most emotional are those who are experiencing a last Christmas with a loved one who is dying,” Phelps says. “We’ve had family members tell us that the lights brought some joy or helped get them through the holidays during the most difficult time of their life—and it’s hard not to get really emotional.”
Phelps says that he would encourage other lawn and landscape professionals to use their talents to pay it forward in some way this holiday season.
“Let’s be honest, we all had a really good year—our industry has fared well,” he says. “So, my hope is that more of us can use our gifts and our talents to find a way to give back and make a difference. What’s pretty cool about it is that you’re also giving your team an opportunity to serve the community—and that’s something they’ll really appreciate, too. It’s rewarding for everyone.”