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August 20, 2008 > This Light of Mine

This Light of Mine

An In-Depth Look at the Candle Lighters

By Ethan Chou

For decades, the Candle Lighters have contributed to countless community organizations throughout the tri-city area, and yet few people realize how much work they put into their activities and how far back their roots extend.

Since their founding in 1969, the Candle Lighters have been a strictly charitable group. Initially consisting of 5 women trying to raise money for the YMCA building fund, their incredible success led them to decide to raise money every year for worthy local causes in need of financial support. In spite of the growing number of women with full-time jobs plus other commitments, the Candle Lighters have grown to include over 110 executive and 30 patron members. And still, these women put in well above 50 hours toward raising funds each year.

The original members came up with the idea that would become the Candle Lighters' annual tradition and sole source of income - the Ghost House. Originally setting up their haunted house in an old brick winery (which stands on what is now the Ohlone College campus), the organization now employs the Chadbourne Carriage House as the site of their holiday fundraiser. Every year, the board president chooses the theme of the 11-room attraction, always in keeping with the spirit of Halloween. In previous years, the Candle Lighters have decorated based on topics like "100 Years of Scary Movies", while this year, the Ghost House will be made to resemble a "Haunted Train". With the Carriage House acting as a train station, some of the modular rooms will be recreated as a dining car, sleeping quarters, a caboose car, and the like.

While most members are residents or former residents of Fremont, some women come from all over the area to participate in Candle Lighter activities. However, according to current President Mary Lang, "all of our members are so creative. We have one trailer of props that gets recycled every year, but our ladies are so creative they can still make it new and exciting." Typically starting construction the first Saturday following Labor Day, the efforts of the Candle Lighters and their families culminate in the frightfully fun Ghost House operating during the final two weeks of October.

The Ghost House has been a staple of Fremont's Halloween celebrations ever since the original Candle Lighters conceived it. "Some families have been going for 40 years," responded Lang when asked about the usual House attendees. "Some people who went as kids now take their grandkids to the Ghost House."

It is no wonder why. The rooms attached to the main Ghost House are purposely constructed to be eerie and creepy. Teenage volunteers are stationed around the complex, ready to jump out just when you are distracted looking at the decorations. Their antics are sure to get any visitor's heart pumping. For the younger members of the audience, a "good fairy", complete with dress and wand, can lead them through the House, warding off any of the offending teenage ghouls.

However, the Ghost House is only half of the fun. Outside, attached to the main attraction, is the perennially popular midway. Carnival games, including a "Wheel of Fortune" and ring toss, a prize stand, a duck pond, face-painting, and snack bar offer a nice way to relax from the adrenaline stimulating tour through the House. Also, a photo booth with the ability to make photo buttons is available, a great way to make your trip to the Ghost House a long-lasting memory.

Though members are required to put in at least ten hours on construction of the Ghost House and forty hours working at the House during the Halloween season, the effort is well worth it. During the building process, Candle Lighter volunteers personally prepare lunch for all of the people hard at work. In addition, there are various luncheons prepared for all members, a great chance to get some planning done in a more festive atmosphere. But above all, the Candle Lighters can rest assured, knowing how much good they are doing for the public. After a proposal process in which local organizations can petition for funds, and a round of voting, much-needed money goes to numerous worthy charities and groups, including children's libraries and the Salvation Army.

Though the fiscal contributions of the Candle Lighters are very often a behind-the-scenes endeavor, there is no way to diminish the extraordinary amount of good they accomplish, both through their entertainment of the people in the area via the Ghost House, and their generosity with their time and money.

Applications for membership are welcome. Prospective members must work a minimum of 20 hours on-site to be considered for membership the following year. Two Candle Lighter sponsors must sign a membership petition. This is a wonderful opportunity for those interested in supporting the Tri-City community in a fun and tangible manner; the Candle Lighters offers a unique approach to that goal. For more information, contact the Candle Lighters at:

The Candle Lighters
P.O. Box 174
Fremont, CA 94537
510-796-0595
www.candlelighters.com

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