“Combine fun and community with doing something bigger.”

Justin Smith, 35, Community Builder

A teenage Justin Smith devised a genius solution to his family’s Christmas decoration installation issues: a homemade potato gun. Load it up, and you can easily get the chicken wire light balls high into the trees.

In the last nineteen years, the Smith’s Christmas light ball DIY project has become something much more for Greensboro’s Sunset Hills neighborhood. Every year, neighbors get together to learn how to make the orbs. They help each other hang them from their trees. Some 3,000 of the handmade glittery decorations hang in Sunset Hills alone – transforming the area into a tourist attraction that residents have used to collect canned goods and money to feed local families.Justin Smith with some of his "tree ball" creations he and his family are known for on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. JERRY WOLFORD and SCOTT MUTHERSBAUGH / Perfecta Visuals A teenage Justin Smith grinned with excitement as he launched the lighted Christmas balls his family crafted of chicken wire and colorful holiday lights high into the trees in his yard with his homemade potato gun. Over the next nineteen years, Justin helped his family’s DIY project evolve into a community endeavor that would provide close to one million meals for the hungry. He praises his parents for showing him how to simultaneously help others, have fun and work hard. “I have been able to see that this way of living is commonplace.” As a financial planner, he helps people with their money. As a mentor for youth leaders, he guides young males as they lead their communities. As a board member for Crescent Rotary, he lends a hand to people in need. Justin aims to raise his three children with the same sense of community that he was raised with. “My hope is that my family and I create this environment of being selfless and being passionate for somebody else and my kids get to combine fun and community with doing something bigger.”

Justin says his parents have showed him how to simultaneously help others, work hard and have fun.

“I have been able to see that this way of living is commonplace,” Justin says.  “It’s just what you do, it’s life.”

This year, Sunset Hills will top one million meals collected. And neighborhoods around the country have adopted the Christmas light ball trend.

Justin aims to raise his three children with the same sense of community that he was raised with.

“My hope is that my family and I create this environment of being selfless and being passionate for somebody else and my kids get to combine fun and community with doing something bigger.”

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