While the Light a Light of Love holiday event raises money for youths in need, it also signifies the beginning of the holiday season in downtown Huntington Beach.
The nonprofit group Community Service Programs and Surf City will host the annual event, which is now in its 17th year. Beginning at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride atop a city fire engine down Main Street as part of a holiday parade. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Chairman Dennis Kuhl will serve as this year's grand marshal.
The festivities wrap up around 6 p.m. as large metal snowflakes with LED bulbs are lit. About 80 of the
4- to 5-foot ornaments are hung on the lamp posts along the pier and all around Main Street.
But the snowflakes, which will remain until the first week of January, are more than holiday decorations. The event doubles as a major fundraiser for the Community Service Program's youth shelter in Huntington Beach.
A snowflake can be sponsored for $600 to $15,000, according to Elsa Greenfield, the shelter's program director. Those on the pier are sold out, but about 10 ornaments on Main Street are still available.
"By supporting the event, people are supporting that the shelter can continue to keep its doors open and the lights on," said Greenfield.
The youth shelter, behind the Central Library on Talbert Avenue, celebrated its seventh anniversary since being taken over and reopened by the Community Service Programs in 2006. Greenfield said donations have greatly helped the organization stay afloat during the recession.
"We rely a lot on the community," she said. "Less than 20% of our funding comes from the government."
Greenfield said the money will help the shelter aid children and teenagers — some runaways and some homeless — get back on their feet.
"Every year, we serve about 125 to 130 kids at the shelter who call the shelter their home," she said. "In addition to that, we serve about another 500 to 1,000 kids through our outreach effort in the community.
"The shelter is a more of an intervention program, and then we do a lot of outreach. That way we prevent kids from being on the streets, from making poor choices and using bad judgment."