Christmas light display raises nearly a ton of food

What 1,880 pounds of food looks like. This is what Robert Gatchell collected for the Island Food Pantry during his Christmas display. — Robert Gatchell

The 18th annual Christmas light extravaganza at the Gatchell residence on County Road in Oak Bluffs raised 1,880 pounds of foodstuffs for the Island Food Pantry this year.

Rob Gatchell spends weeks preparing the festive display, which lights up on Thanksgiving night and continues through New Year’s Eve. The display expands every year — this year Mr. Gatchell counted over 20,000 lights and 140 separate pieces.

“Overall, it was a really good year,” he told The Times. “So many people seem to enjoy it, the young and the old. It was great having the buses from Windemere come by.”

Mr. Gatchell said he’s still taking the display down because so many decorations are frozen into the ground.

“The amount of time Rob puts into this is incredible,” Island Food Pantry director Margaret Hannemann said. “Clearly, the whole community responds to his generosity.”

Ms. Hannemann said demand at the Food Pantry is up from last year, which she contributes in part to the severe housing shortage on the Island.

“It’s not that the people are homeless, but we’re seeing more people with difficult living conditions, where they don’t have food storage or access to a kitchen,” she said.