Each year Wake Forest University Advancement creates luminaries to honor donors that have contributed to the Wake Forest Fund leading up to the annual Lovefeast. This year, the team said goodbye to traditional white paper bags and hello to over 4,000 reusable luminaries that can be stored and used for the years to come.

“We’ve seen our donors really attached to the luminaries as something that they love because Lovefeast was part of their experience when they were here,” said Emily Smith, Executive Director of Donor Experience and the team lead for the luminary project. “People have been invested in this project, so we wanted to invest in these.”

This year the team placed an order for about 4,200 luminaries — enough to encircle the quad seven times. The luminaries feature stickers with the names of the individuals or households who have contributed to the Wake Forest Fund since July 1, 2018. The new, reusable luminaries are synced with an electrical timer system. This shift from battery-operated tea lights increases efficiency by ensuring the luminaries only glow when it is dark.

“When we evaluated our options, we found that there was no downside to switching to reusable luminaries,” Smith said. “It was more environmentally friendly, and it lasted longer for donors to see their names.”

The durability of the luminaries and synced lighting capabilities also allowed for them to be incorporated into Lighting of the Quad for the first time in the project’s history.

In years past, the paper luminaries were left outside for only 24 hours before University Advancement had to return and pick them up, discarding the paper bags. The new, reusable luminaries are made from a sturdy polymer with UV inhibitors that are resistant to inclement weather and built to last year after year.

“There is a tremendous amount of person-power that goes into setting the luminaries up and paper bags just don’t last very long,” Smith said.

This team effort in project setup was evident last week as staff from Facilities and Campus Services worked seamlessly alongside those from University Advancement to line the quad with the reusable luminaries. Paul Sheff, Landscaping Operations Manager for Facilities and Campus Services, personally cut over 4,000 landscaping pins by hand to make reusable stakes to replace sand and other ballasts for each luminary.

“Our partners in facilities are extraordinary,” Smith said. “No matter what new project we imagine, whatever it is, they always start with yes. They always want to figure out how to make it happen.”

The reusable luminaries were manufactured in the U.S. by family-owned company, FLIC Luminaries. They will be removed from the quad on Thursday, December 6 and stored until this time next year.

“Our job is to say ‘Thank You,'” Smith said. “And this is one way that we get to do that.”