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FLORAL CITY — Inverness resident Grant Doyle remembers feeling a sense of disquiet when he saw a sheriff’s patrol vehicle parked in the driveway of a home that has given him and his family a resplendent bit of Christmas cheer in the past.
And, his alarm was confirmed later that evening when he and his wife drove by 1308 Old Floral City Road: the Christmas lights and decorations that had lit up that slice of the neighborhood weren’t there. A sign with a spotlight on it read something like the family had to discontinue their display due to vandalism.
“We both just hung our heads,” Doyle said.
“Our children, who live in Volusia County, also love driving by that house whenever they come to visit,” he said.
News of the vandalism made Doyle write a letter to the editor of the Chronicle, which helped rally the community around the family behind the display — Paul and Melissa Dickinson.
The Dickinsons said they have taken a lot of pride throughout the years — sometimes beginning in October — adorning their yard with generations of colorful fixtures.
“I have four generations of decorations. My grandmother used to love doing this,” Mrs. Dickinson said.
But early Dec. 15, the family was informed by a neighbor something was amiss in the yard. Upon examination, the family found a mess. Vandals had uprooted many of the displays and those they couldn’t remove “they kicked and stomped.”
Among the items damaged include a prized train fixture Mrs. Dickinson inherited from her grandmother.
“We have a Christmas tree made out of rod and LED lights, which they tried to remove, but they couldn’t. My husband had it in such a way it was difficult to remove. The whole thing was quiet disheartening,” Dickinson said.
She said it was then the family decided to put a sign in the yard saying they were discontinuing the display.
But within 24 hours, the community responded, Dickinson said.
“People began dropping off decorations and money telling us they want us to keep the display going,” Dickinson said. “So, we went out there and flipped the sign around and wrote a “thank you” on it and began putting up the decorations again.”
She thanked those who showed concern, saying they “truly inspired us to continue on with Christmas and put the Christmas spirit in all of our hearts after the decorations disaster.”
Area resident Morgan Googe said her parents, Lynn Burkhalter and Brad Wasson, were some of the first donors to the Dickinsons after getting wind of the news.
“It was so sad to see the sign that said they were not going to do the decorations, but just as quickly, it was great to see the community come together for the family,” Googe said.
Frequent driver-by Doyle said he knew it took a lot of dedication for Mr. Dickinson, who is wheelchair-bound, to go out in October and begin the painstaking work.
“I realized that Christmas is what he looks forward to each year. It took him several days to get everything set up and I watched his yard every time I passed,” Doyle wrote to the Chronicle.
Doyle continued by expressing his glee at seeing the new decorations up and concluded by writing: “I tip my hat to that man in the wheelchair. He not only does not let his physical situation get in the way, he won’t let the vandals take away his spirit — Merry Christmas, dude!”
Chronicle reporter A.B. Sidibe can be reached at 352-564-2925 or firstname.lastname@example.org.