One of the most popular Christmas lights display in Oklahoma City will be dark this year.
Chesapeake Energy will not be lighting up its trees outside its business park along Western and 63rd. Instead, the company is partnering with the Oklahoma City Thunder to support the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
“We are focused 100% on trying to make the biggest impact and the best impact in Oklahoma City,” said Gordon Pennoyer, Director of Strategic Communications at Chesapeake Energy.
Chesapeake recently laid off more than 740 employees. When it came time for the Christmas lights display, company executives thought the money would better be spent on helping those in need.
“It's a tough time for the community, it's a tough time for the energy industry, and we have to be very good stewards of our capital,” Pennoyer told News 9.
The need is huge this year. The Salvation Army is seeing about a 15% increase in families asking for holiday assistance.
“Now with Chesapeake and the Thunder being on board, it's really a great day today,” said Major Carlyle Gargis with the Salvation Army in OKC.
The Angel Tree program will give a gift to more than 5,000 children this year and a box of food to those kids’ families through the Regional Food Bank.
“We are really excited about the partnership not only with Chesapeake Energy, but also one of our great partners is the Salvation Army so this is a win, win situation,” said Rodney Bivens, the executive director for the Regional Food Bank.
Chesapeake knows it is a shock for the public not to see the 1 million bulbs lighting up the night this year, which would have been the 15th year for it, but hopes the community rallies behind its non-profit partners.
“Lighting up lives in a meaningful way,” Pennoyer said.
News 9 asked if the move was permanent for years to come and Pennoyer said right now, Chesapeake is just focusing on this year. Chesapeake would not say how much money its Christmas lights display costs.