Mesquite, NV –
The winners of the Parade of Lights that occurred back on December 2nd last month were announced at an awards dinner on January 18th at Elks Lodge #2881 located at 545 Riverside Rd. The awards dinner was put together by the developers and organizers of the Parade of Lights, Michael and Debbie Benham. The recipients were treated to a delicious meal along with good conversation with good friends.
The winner of the Parade of Lights for best light display was Reliance Connects. While there was a couple of more awards given for most food collected and a special “Santa Award”. The Mesquite Fire Department took 3rd in collecting the most food, while the Mesquite Police Department took 2nd. However the winner of collecting the most food went to The Mesquite Senior Games Board of Directors. Even though these organizations were given plaques for their efforts, the true winners was the Mesquite Food Bank which benefited by receiving over 15,770 lbs. of food. The other award was given to Zach Robison of the Mesquite Recreation Center who was the official “Santa” of the year for all of his work and efforts for the event.
Besides food this year, the event took donations of personal hygiene and essentials of “anything you can use in the house” according to Debbie Benham. They also took in financial donations which were used to go grocery shopping for food and essentials for the cause.
“Everybody came through,” said Debbie. “We had the highest ever collected up to this point!”
The Parade of Lights originated from an idea that Debbie and her husband, Michael, had after retiring and moving out to Mesquite. Originally from New Jersey, the couple remembered a local radio channel that put on a toy truck parade where toys were collected for abused children.
“We saw nothing like that being done here and we knew that feeding people was important and needed, so we had the idea of the Parade of Lights,” said Michael, a retired Fire Commissioner.
They tossed the idea to the mayor of Mesquite at the time and the mayor was not sure how it would be received or if it would catch on, reported Michael. The mayor was later impressed how much it would catch on in support and acceptance.
“We began pushing for the movement to do the event in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2015 when we had enough support,” stated Debbie.
The first year brought in under 1,000 lbs. However in the second year it increased dramatically to almost 6,000 lbs. Of course, last year, the event was cancelled due to Covid-19, but still the food donations were accepted as they were even more needed. 11,060 lbs. of food were collected last year even without the Parade of Lights to help bring more together for the cause.
“The event has grown substantially as we had 31 entries this year into the Parade,” announced triumphantly Debbie.
The Benhams expressed gratitude towards the volunteers, those who participated in the parade and food collection, Jerry Lee and the Eureka Casino, Deep Roots for the awards, and of course, the friendly rivalry between the Mesquite Fire Department and the Mesquite Police Department.
“The first responders genuinely care of the city and its people,” said Debbie.
Michael added, “Of all the places we have lived there has not been any other place like here. Mesquite is the most generous place we have ever lived in.”
He went on to repeat himself in reminding that this was a “group effort” and they do this “new-found hobby” , because “we feel good when someone gets food that they so need.”
“The smile on a child is priceless,” somberly emphasized the retired Fire Commissioner.
The next Parade of Lights is scheduled for December 8, 2022. To volunteer or find out more information contact Debbie Benham at (702) 324-2038.
*** As a side note: On behalf of the Virgin River Times, we would like to say a big thank you to Michael and Debbie Benham for all you do for this community.