Some area churches are putting light into what is considered a dark and eerie night.
The churches are offering Let it Shine or Light the Night programs in their neighborhoods for Halloween.
During the city's hours of trick-or-treating 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 three Altoona churches will offer kids more than candy. Depending on the site, the kids will play games, make crafts, watch videos or puppet shows. Hot dogs and hot chocolate are on the menu at each church which will be served to adults as well as children. Popcorn, juice and coffee also may be served depending on the site.
(Courtesy photo) Teens Chirley Ross, (left) Kelsey Houck (center) and Danny Burtoft ham it up at the 2008 Light the Night event held at 1533 11th Street. The event is in its ninth year of providing safe and friendly programs for families on trick-or-treat night and is sponsored by Pleasant Valley Assembly of God.
(Courtesy photo) Elijah (left) and Gabriella Rodriguez show off their costumes at the 2008 Light the Night event, sponsored by Pleasant Valley Assembly of God.
Pleasant Valley Assembly of God is in its ninth year of holding Light the Night programs that originally started in church members' back yards. A few years ago, Fourth Street Church of God learned about the program and started its own.
Pastor Jon Neely said it serves as an outreach to the community with the kids being rewarded with treats while playing various games and a presentation of the gospel is given.
Leeann Hornberger, who is in charge of Light the Night at Fourth Street Church of God, said the church has been doing it for at least four years and about 120 kids attended last year's festivities.
"The kids come back from year to year," she said. "They tell their parents, 'we want to go to the church' and get real excited about it.'"
She said the games include devouring a doughnut hung from a string, bobbing for apples and pumpkin ring toss.
Last year's Bible story was about the Valley of Dry Bones, a story in Ezekiel Chapter 37 where God asks the prophet if the bones he sees in the valley can live. God compares Israel to the dry bones and tells Ezekiel that he will restore Israel and its hope.
She said her husband dressed as Ezekiel and told part of the story in a room made to look like a cave with fake bones lying around. In a second room, the fake bones were together, forming a skeleton. After the story was over, the kids were told to get a handful of popcorn - a plastic glove filled with the treat.
"The kids loved it," Hornberger said.
At Wehnwood United Methodist Church, the program is held in partnership with Mardorf United Methodist Church and is known as Let It Shine.
Ed Preston, pastor of both churches, said the churches became acquainted with the program through a member who had learned about Light the Night in Florida.
"It was done in people's homes and was a Christian alternative to a scary Halloween," he said.
Preston said about 250 kids attended the first program at Wehnwood last year.
He said Let It Shine is a metaphor for offering the light of Christ, and the church doesn't use Light the Night because it is the name of a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
He said the children will be invited to do a craft, sit on bales of hay to watch a video and take in a petting zoo in a safe, well-lit environment.
Parishioners also will have Trunk or Treat, decorated car trunks filled with candy.
"It's a neat opportunity to relate to the community," Preston said.
Getting to know people beyond its membership also is behind Pleasant Valley's efforts.
"It's an outreach to the community, an opportunity to share the love of Christ," said Chris Heller, children's pastor at Pleasant Valley Assembly of God. "People come to you," she said.
"Some people are out and about and just stop as they are driving through [on their trick-or-treat route]. They stop to get something to eat and play games. Some decide not to finish their trick-or-treating. They just stay and have fun. Others don't care for trick-or-treating," she said.
For the second time, it will hold a Light the Night at what will become Hope Community Church, 1533 11th St., in November and will continue to sponsor its original neighborhood programs, one in Greenwood, and the other in the Duncansville area.
Heller said children at Hope Community will attend puppet shows presented by Puppets in Action and Harmony Hands of Calvary Baptist Church with Debbie Tini as the director. She said singing and shows will continue throughout the evening.
Heller said people look forward to it, and neighborhood kids ask about it each year.