DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – University of Dayton is kicking off the holidays with their annual nativity exhibit but this year they are honoring the volunteers who work year round to make it a reality.
The volunteers spend over 6,000 hours working on and maintaining the thousands of nativity sets from around the world, some representing Australia, Japan, Africa, made from a variety of materials like terra cotta, paper mâché, even rubber ducks.
“I used to teach religion and it’s a symbol of meeting people where they are,” said Anne Malone, one of the volunteers. “Little kids love the ducks, it’s a way of talking with them about Jesus and about Christmas.”
Malone is the creator of the rubber duck scene and has been volunteering for At the Manger:World Nativity Traditions for five years.
She’s one of about about 20-30 volunteers who spend all year designing, storing, and repairing the sets.
“Volunteers come in and work on the tiny parts of the settings, like we painted all the tiny pieces so they would match, some of our volunteers worked from their homes to make the curtains for the windows and everything to that level of detail,” said Malone.
But this year, the theme of the exhibit is “A Labor of Love,” and is highlighting the work they do by letting the volunteers pick the scenes from their collection of 3,600 sets.
Malone said some were picked for their special meaning to the individuals, while others were selected for their beauty.
She said it was no coincidence they represented a variety of cultures as the purpose of the exhibit is to allow the public to see how people around the world picture the scene at the manger.
“We’re always sort of the background people and to be brought up to the front and to kind of have an acknowledgement that what we do is important, and it’s not that we don’t know that, but to have it in a wider range,” said Malone.
For more information on the exhibit including hours and the location, click here.