Magazine Features

It’s Christmastime in the village

Major Jeff Stacy is a pastor, so it’s fitting that the first purchase he ever made for his massive Christmas village display was a beautiful church with a high steeple.

“One day, my wife and I were in a store and I said, ‘I kind of like that.’ I went ahead and got it,” Stacy recalls. “The next year, they had more pieces come out and I said, ‘I kind of like them, too.’ It just kept growing and I kept finding pieces that I really liked.

“I’ve been collecting them for about 20 years. It started with just a couple of pieces in my home on my mantle. It’s grown throughout the years and it got to where it was actually too big for my home, so I started displaying them at the corps building every year, so everybody could enjoy it.”

Today, that first church has tremendous sentimental value for Stacy and reminds him of his daughter, Bethany, who was young when he bought it. The church is the centerpiece of a huge village Stacy began displaying six years ago at the Lima, Ohio, Community Service Center.

Sadly, Stacy didn’t set up the display this year due to COVID-19. The corps is closed this Christmas and worship is being done virtually.

The display includes 157 buildings, featuring small figurines enjoying a winter wonderland, trees, and snow. There are also 300 to 400 unique pieces, Stacy said. His wife, Major Debbie Stacy, said it’s actually closer to 1,000 pieces when you count the smaller, more intricate figures.


A labor of love

Stacy has no idea how much he has spent on the village over the years, but each of the larger pieces cost from $20 to $50.

The whole thing takes about two and a half days to set up, but it’s a labor of love for Stacy, who relishes seeing the public reaction each year.

“That’s the fun part about it—just watching people see things that they like, such as certain characters,” Stacy said. “It’s really neat because some people will look at it and say ’Wow, look at that piece!’ I like it when the kids see it because their eyes get really big and they’ll drag their mom and dad in to see it. I enjoy that part of it.”

The display usually fills up an entire room at the corps and sits on three or four tables. Stacy stores everything at his home and hauls it with him when he changes appointments. Stacy and his wife have been in Lima for seven years after previous appointments in Lancaster, Ohio, and Latrobe, York, and Tarentum, Pa.

Many of the pieces hold special meaning for the Stacys and their family.

For example, Stacy bought the “Matt’s Garage” piece because his son’s name is Matt. The figures, who work on a car outside the garage, take Stacy back to his childhood because his father was a mechanic. The piece sits right next to a carousel just like the one from Stacy’s hometown of Mansfield, Ohio.

A Toys for Tots building with characters are also part of the display because each year The Salvation Army works with that organization.

Yes, there are Salvation Army figures who ring bells in Stacy’s display.

Stacy has the full support of his wife for his endeavor.

“I love it,” Major Debbie said. “I love that he takes the time to do the intricate little detail stuff. He makes sure the mailman is by the post office or the cars being worked on are by the garage. Every single detail; he takes the time to make sure everything is just right. There’s a playground and he makes sure there are kids there. I love the joy that it brings to people when they come in.”

Stacy also displays several churches, including one with a pastor, to accentuate the first piece he ever bought.

“I get the joy, too, especially when I buy a new piece and I’ll add it to my collection. I’m just glad it can bring so much joy to people at Christmas.”

by Robert Mitchell