Dave Plourde, known to neighbors as “Mr. Christmas,” has wowed his Ventana Ranch neighbors with extravagant Christmas decorations for more than 17 years. This week, the community returned the favor.
Wednesday, Nate Bywater, a neighbor of Plourde who has helped keep the Christmas display going the last two years, broke the news to Plourde that a GoFundMe started by Bywater to help out his elderly neighbor has accumulated over $6,000. The moment when Bywater signed the GoFundMe account over to Plourde was an emotional one.
“There were a lot of tears, instant waterworks,” Bywater said. “He erupted in tears, then he asked us to go inside and tell his wife and she and their granddaughter that they take care of both burst into tears. First thing out of her mouth was, ‘Finally, we’ll be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year.’
Plourde, an 83-year-old military veteran, told Bywater two years ago that his health was going to prevent him from putting up his beloved Christmas display. Bywater and other neighbors refused to take no for an answer and offered to pitch in and put up the directions themselves, with Plourde giving directions.
“I was talking to him about his lights, and he said, ‘I think I’m done now because I can’t do it anymore. I’m not stable on my feet, I can’t feel my hands anymore and it’s just too dangerous for me to try to get up on the house,'” Bywater said. “I said that doesn’t really work for us. Everyone moved in here in this neighborhood because of you. So I said, ‘We’re going to decorate your house for you. I’m gonna talk to some of the other neighbors. All you have to do is point where you want the stuff and we’re going to do it all.’ He said, ‘No, no, no. You don’t need to do that.’ I said, ‘That’s where you’re mistaken; we’re not asking you, we’re telling you.’ So, he finally agreed.”
The next day, Bywater and a group of neighbors put up Plourde’s display. While they were on the roof, they noticed that 20 years of putting Christmas decorations had taken a toll on Plourde’s roof and caused severe damage.
Plourde and his wife, Sandra, both have expensive medical issues and are on a fixed income. They also take care of two grandchildren who live with them, Plourde’s truck is in need of repairs and the electric bill is sky-high from the annual display.
Bywater wanted to show some appreciation for his neighbor who has brought so much joy to the neighborhood.
“This guy, I’m telling you, is the most humble man I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Bywater said. “We get thousands of cars through here for Christmas lights. People would be like, here’s five bucks, here’s 10 bucks, here’s 20 bucks, trying to help with his electric bill. He will not take it, he refuses, absolutely refuses. He’s just super humble. And we ask him why does he do this display and every time he’ll either say, ‘It’s for you,’ or ‘It’s for the kids. That’s my reward, when I see the smiles that’s all I need.'”
While the idea for the GoFundMe was initially to help with roof repair, NM Premier Roofing heard about the fundraiser and agreed to fix the damaged roof for free and warranty all future repairs for the rest of Plourde’s life. A local car shop has also shown interest in helping with the damages to the truck.
The most impressive thing to Bywater, though, was the neighborly acts of the community in donating and helping Plourde.
“It’s crazy, right, because it used to be everyone took care of everyone; I don’t know what happened,” Bywater said. “The way I was raised in my neighborhood, everyone took care of the elderly folks; they didn’t have to worry about cutting their own grass, pulling their own weeds, trimming their own bushes, taking their trash cans to curb. When we moved in here, the first thing I noticed was probably the longest-standing guy in this neighborhood. We’re gonna do something to try and at least make his life easier. All I did was really put it together; the neighbors are the ones that really launched this. So it’s really the entire community. He’s literally a legend. When it comes to Christmas lights, they all know the house, they all know his name.”
The GoFundMe has reached more than $8,000 as of Friday and will be active until the day after Christmas. Donations now go straight into Plourde’s bank account. Neighbors are working on putting up the directions at Plourde’s house, and Mr. Christmas plans on turning the lights on for the first time on the day after Thanksgiving.