New York-based RE/MAX associate broker Christine Rowley shares the inspiration behind her annual holiday lights contest to support local nonprofits.

Agent Plus is back and we’re continuing to highlight agents with extraordinary stories. Do you know someone who should be highlighted for their work inside and outside of the office? Send your nominations to

The world seems to come alive during the holidays — light poles become colorful, beaming guides on the roadside, our favorite stores seem a little more lively with murals or decals of winter scenery, and dim neighborhoods light up with intricate holiday displays all for Santa to enjoy during his one-night gifting spree.

For New York-based RE/MAX associate broker Christine Rowley, those displays are more than just a holiday tradition. They’re an opportunity to bring her community together during a time that can be bittersweet for those who are lonely, grieving the loss of family and friends, or who need a helping hand.

“Christmas is one of my favorite times during the year,” she told Inman. “I don’t know if you watch the light contests on TV, but I was watching [them] and seeing how they were doing it for good causes.”

It’s always been very important to me to give back throughout my whole life, no matter where I was working or what I was doing,” she added. “So when I saw these shows, I thought, ‘Why can’t I do something like that here and tie it into giving back for our community?'”

Rowley immediately began planning her annual holiday light contest, which has become a well-known tradition in Putnam and Westchester counties over the past five years. Every year, three lighting maestros can win cash prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000 for their displays.

Before contestants started shelling out hundreds of dollars, Rowley let everyone know the contest was more about embodying “love and the holiday spirit” rather than making the biggest display.

“It’s not necessarily about the quantity of lights or the big, giant displays,” she said. “It could be a beautiful little window from an apartment building that has tremendous sentiments and love put into it.”

“I remember growing up and my mom was telling the stories about how they didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and the kids used to get so excited to decorate that one window every year, they used to make a bunch of homemade decorations and put lights around them,” she added. “So it’s not necessarily how big it is, it’s more the loving care put into it.”

Rowley said her favorite display thus far came from a teenager who created a display in honor of his grandfather who’d passed away right before the 2019 contest. The display was small, but he’d handmade every single element — something that won over Rowley’s heart.

“We had one family that one last year, who the grandfather passed away, and the grandson, who’s a teenager, just followed his grandfather’s passion of decorating and making every decoration by hand,” she said. “They didn’t have a huge display, but I mean the time that he put into it was incredible.”

In addition to cash prizes, Rowley chooses a nonprofit to support with a $500 donation. This year, Rowley chose My Brother Vinny, a nonprofit that supports people with disabilities and veterans who need help with housing.

“They are a really nice organization who basically implements community-based events towards improving the life,  happiness, and health of emotionally, physically, and intellectually challenged people,” she said. “They also help veterans by supplying furniture and housewares. A lot of veterans wind up being homeless and it’s a really sad thing in our society.”

Rowley said community members make donations as well, and more times than not, the prize winners will donate a portion of their winnings as well.

“Many times you’ll see the contestants will even donate portions back of their prizes. It’s really a beautiful thing,” she said. “Also other people wind up making donations just by seeing me sharing the flyers and doing these contests.”

This year’s holiday contest is in full swing, with the winners receiving their prizes by the end of the year.

It’s really about raising awareness for these nonprofits and having some fun in the community while you’re at it,” Rowley added.

Email Marian McPherson

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription