Charity struggles for donations after move away from Interlochen lights

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on December 15, 2012 at 1:01 AM

Updated Saturday, Dec 15 at 6:30 PM

ARLINGTON -- The Interlochen Christmas lights are a holiday tradition every year in Arlington.

More than 40,000 people are expected to stop by the neighborhood to take a look at the blocks of displays in the next two weeks.

Healey Walker always greets drivers with lots of cheer.

"I always dance and say merry Christmas," the young girl said.

Traffic in the neighborhood can back up for miles, but for drivers and residents, the decorations and the joy they bring are worth it.

"When you see the kids come by and wish us a merry Christmas, giving us high fives through the window, it's really cool and a lot of fun," Chris Walker said.

But this year, some neighbors complained about the Salvation Army's Red Kettle station near the entrance of the neighborhood.

The charity set up at a dentist's office for the first time last year. Some neighbors apparently thought the donation drive caused more traffic, and that the plea for donations outside the free event gave the wrong impression.

The charity moved to a new location this year. It's now nearly a mile away from where the lights route begins. Steve Vincent from the Salvation Army worries donations will be down this year.

Last year, the non-profit collected $5,000. When News 8 checked with the station Friday night, they only had $12 in donations.

Lila Millican of Bedford came by to donate $5.

"I don't see a problem with where it was before, because you just move through there and you keep on going -- drop it in the bucket," Millican said.

After nearly three hours, the Christmas carolers, the hot chocolate, and the red buckets were gone. The Salvation Army packed up and went home about two hours before closing time.

"The cars were not backed up enough that we could spend time with the cars. It's not a safe situation," Vincent said. "This is fast traffic and we didn't want to risk anyone getting hurt."

The charity will be back Saturday night.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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