JT Worley figures his 2017 Christmas light show drew 5,000 to 6,000 people to his Elkhorn home to see thousands of lights flash and sparkle to music.
A self-proclaimed light hobbyist, Worley again has turned his house at N6916 Northwood Drive into a holiday spectacle, with 75,000 lights twinkling to 25 songs.
But this year, he's also taken things a step further.
Worley engineered two light shows in Delavan this year, rigging up matrix panels outside both Kunes Country auto dealerships. In doing so, he paved the way for a $25,000 donation to St. John’s Church in Elkhorn.
Worley said he racked up 220 hours assembling lights for the dealerships, which involved cutting 4-by-8-foot matrix panels and weaving lights through them. Several neighbors and Kunes employees lent a hand during the months-long preparation and installation, he said.
Worley didn’t want to be paid for his labor on the dealership projects. Instead, he asked Gregg Kunes, a dealer at Kunes Country Auto Group, to donate the labor fee to St. John’s Church, which recently was struck by lightning and suffered through a series of “necessary repairs," pastor Tom Degroot said.
The summer lightning strike took out the church's sanctuary lights and some audio equipment. In addition, an old elevator with giant steel doors had become inaccessible, and the children's sanctuary required "much-needed updates," Degroot said.
Kunes said he figured Worley's labor was worth about $25,000. So on Sunday, Kunes gave the church a check for that amount.
It left Degroot speechless.
"It’s so beyond anything we could ever expect," he said. "Completely and utterly unexpected. Just jaw-dropping."
Worley said the donation eased a burden for the church, and it captured the Christmas spirit.
Worley said he grew up poor. His family spent some Christmases in a soup kitchen, and sometimes Christmas meant loading up the family and driving around to see Nativity scenes and houses draped in white incandescent lights.
"That gave us some sense of Christmas," he said. "Christmas is about giving."
Worley hopes the light shows he engineered in Walworth County give onlookers an opportunity to celebrate. He hopes they brighten their lives and give them a reason to "keep that drive and that motivation.”
“That's what it did for me," he said. "If you don't have anything, you don't have hope. I probably got 50 messages this year on Facebook from random people just thanking me, and that's enough. That's payment in itself for me. The impact that has on the community is worth it."
Worley's Elkhorn house was among 21 nominated by Gazette readers as the best houses for Christmas decorations. Worley will have his decorations up until Jan. 6.
The lights at Kunes Country Ford Lincoln, 1234 Geneva St., Delavan, and Kunes Country Chevrolet Cadillac across the street are on from 6 to 10 p.m. every night. Motorists can tune their radios to 87.9 FM to hear the music.