Community First! Village of Lights returns to Austin

Community First Village of Lights

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s largest permanent housing development for folks coming out of homelessness has brought back its annual Christmas celebration, the Community First! Village of Lights.

Over the next two weekends, local nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes will offer folks an opportunity to see more than 250,000 lights choreographed to holiday music.

It’s entirely free for all to see, taking place within the massive 51-acre community that provides permanent housing for over 400 formerly homeless individuals.

The event features a holiday market full of fine art, ceramics and jewelry — all handcrafted gifts created by the neighbors at Community First! Village.

“When people buy their products, they earn a dignified income,” Mobile Loaves & Fishes Director of Community Empowerment Taylor Graham said. “We’re able to help promote their products and help them earn that money, so that they can support themselves.”

After living on Austin’s streets for 10 years, Ute Dittemer has been happily creating crafts while living within the village.

“People have found a place that they can call a home,” she said. “They don’t have to be out on the streets anymore, worrying where they’re going to sleep at night.”

Back in 2019, Ditteme carved a 32-piece clay chess set that sold for $10,000 at the holiday market. This allowed her to buy a car.

“The Christmas market is our biggest event in the year and I work all year for this,” Dittemer said.You can have a little cushion in your bank account, if you manage it wisely.”

According to Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the neighbors made over $85,000 during last year’s event through gift sales and working the event.

“We have a number of neighbors that will be working at the firepits and helping with parking,” Graham added. “They’ll be able to earn dignified income through a number of different ways throughout our event.”

The walkable holiday experience comes with provided parking nearby at the Travis County Expo Center.

From there, shuttle buses will take you to and from the village.

The Community First! Village of Lights opens up Friday night from 5:30-9 p.m. It’s also open Saturday night and next weekend (December 8th & 9th).

To RSVP, you can visit the Mobile Loaves & Fishes website.

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