College Square worker brightens holidays

Published 12:43 am Saturday, December 3, 2011

Barbara Hightower creates an elaborately decorated Christmas town in her office for College Square neighborhood children to enjoy. She started doing it when a child told her he was afraid Santa would miss his house because his family could not afford to decorate.

Even though it’s not very frosty outside, there’s a winter wonderland in College Square.

Inside of Barbara Hightower’s office, which is located in one side of a duplex in the College Square neighborhood, a whole town is celebrating Christmas.

Homes are decked out in garland, red bows and strings of lights, snow blankets the entire village, and a red and green train whistles as it makes its rounds.

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Every year, Hightower, a property manager with Westview Building in the College Square neighborhood, has put together a large display of the festive town to bring holiday cheer to the children in the neighborhood.

“They are so in awe,” she said. “They get down on their knees and just watch the train.”

Hightower said she got the idea for the town five years ago when a little boy visiting her office with his family told her he was afraid Santa would miss his house because they couldn’t decorate.

She said it broke her heart to hear that, and she told him she would take care of the decorations.

“I started small; I only had four or five houses,” Hightower said. “Every year, it’s grown a little bit.”

The display has grown so much it now spans the length of the front room in the office and contains more than a dozen miniature buildings, including a Home Depot, Walmart, church, fire and police stations, and several homes.

Hightower said she has collected the miniatures over the years from stores, yard sales and her friends’ collections. She even has a Christmas tree in the display that her mother made.

“It takes three days to put up, but it’s worth it,” Hightower said. “The kids love it.”

Hightower said she keeps the display up until January, and in the time that it’s up, she’ll have 40 to 50 children visit it with their parents.

Regardless of the work it requires, she said, she’ll continue to do it as long as the children enjoy it.

“There’s so many people who don’t care about what a child wants; they only think about themselves,” Hightower said. “I want the kids to know people care; I want them to know I care.”