Tuesday night a group of ex-cons descended on the front yard of a home in Grand Prairie, but they were there to give, not to receive.
Rhonda Ramsey, 65, lost her husband Rick to cancer three years ago. They’d been married 43 years. He was a Grand Prairie firefighter lieutenant. He updated and rebuilt the interior of their home himself. And each Christmas he made sure the exterior lights were up early to celebrate the season with the rest of his neighbors.
Rhonda Ramsey soon found it was a routine she could not handle on her own. “I went out Sunday evening and a couple more neighbors had put lights out, and I was wishing that I had my lights,” she said.
On Tuesday night, she got help from a small army of novice lighting technicians, who strung lights along Ramsey’s sidewalk, over her landscaping, and high on the rain gutters and eaves – all the while looking for a little “light” of their own.
Because they’re people like Courtney Peace.
“I served 11 years and three months,” he said of the robbery conviction that sent him to prison. Now a member of the group Cornbread Hustle that works with ex-cons to return them to meaningful service in society, he and other ex-cons offered their labor to install Christmas lights at Rhonda Ramsey’s home.
“To do this for a woman who can’t do this for herself and bring a smile on her face for the holidays is great. It’s a great feeling to give,” he said. Courtney Peace is now a business owner with his own small trucking company.
Jason Sturgis has a similar story. He is an Air Force veteran who eventually served three years in prison for a family violence conviction.
But, with the help of the prison ministry Bridges to Life, he works to help other ex-cons and is employed by the HVAC and construction company Denali CS, which donated much of the lights used on Rhonda Ramsey’s home.
“Taking their time, their evenings, their weekends, coming out and helping society and giving back and trying to make up for whatever wrong they might have done or not have done,” Sturgis said. “Because you can have all A’s (in life) and if you get that one F, it changes the game. So I’ve not allowed it to change it.”
So after a couple hours of ex-cons giving back, Rhonda Ramsey had lights in her yard again. And she also had a sense that maybe she’d given the volunteers something too.
“Everybody deserves an extra, you know a second chance at life,” she said. “They’re doing a good thing. And I appreciate it.”
She appreciates that her husband’s lights shine again. And that maybe a few former lost souls have a chance to show they can shine again too.
“It’s going to help with Christmas I think. Make it happy again,” she said. “It will just help make Christmas a little better, without Rick here.”
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