RICHMOND – Every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas a steady stream of families in cars drive down 100 East in Richmond getting a glimpse of the holiday lights and displays at the Rod and Becky Johnson home. The home is located at 576 South 100 East in Richmond.
They have a huge inflatable bear that gives hugs, a mailbox for Santa letters, a Griswold station wagon with a Christmas Tree on top and more. Christmas memories are on display on three acres of the Johnson property for people to enjoy.
“I started selling hot chocolate about five years ago,” said their 16-year-old daughter Jaydee. “We sell about 200 cups of hot cocoa some nights.”
That is how Cocoa for a Cause came to be.
“My parents have collected lights and props as long as I remember,” said Jaydee. “I came up with the idea of selling hot chocolate and donating the proceeds to charity.”
The Johnson family has raised thousands of dollars this year and have given some of the money to causes and plan to give more to charities across the valley. They expect from now until Christmas to be busier with donations.
“It was my daughter’s idea about five years ago,” Becky said. “When the traffic started to get big, she put out a card table and started selling hot chocolate. The first night she made $5 selling it. The next night she made $30 and when she made $100, we felt like it was time to get a shack.”
When they started to make a little cash, they decided to donate it to different charities. This year the family took all the tags off an Angel Tree at North Eastern Services, an organization that supports opportunities for people with disabilities. They are a training center that helps people gain independence, enhance self-esteem and sustain a full quality life.
The family bought and wrapped presents for the tags they took and delivered them.
“We filled up the back of Rod’s pick-up truck and took the presents to them,” she said. “We also gave money to the Preston Elks Lodge to help with their Christmas Boxes and a family we know that has some struggles this year.”
Last year they built a second shack. It was bigger and turned the old one into Santa’s Workshop for the yard displays.
“We wanted to hold on to our first cocoa shack,” Becky said. “I didn’t want to get rid of the memories.”
On Fridays and Saturdays, they have non-stop traffic after dark. Becky counted over 200 cars one night. She said it’s like a Hallmark movie moment.
“Most of the neighbors love it,” Becky said. “Some of the kids in the area come over every night.”
So far, nobody from Richmond City has complained about the crowds. The Johnsons start setting everything up and stringing the lights in mid-September.
“This year Pro Rentals donated the use of their lift so we could get into some of the high places,” Becky said. “It would be nice to mention them.”
Becky buys the chocolate mix locally and mixes it to her own specifications. So far, Cocoa for a Cause donations are pushing $5,000 this year and they decided to stay open a couple of days after Christmas and if they can make more money they will stay open.
“It’s been an amazing tradition,” she said. “We have been so blessed. This year with COVID we have had three times the donations we got from last year.”