I'm Tim Gabriel, Executive Director and founder of the charity and also the person that built the villages. Here is how the Little WORLD started and grew.
I've always been the "Clark Griswald" of my Garrett Farms neighborhood, with tons of Halloween (and Christmas) decorations outside and inside our home. Twelve years ago I opened my garage door on Halloween so kids and parents could see my first Halloween Village. Back then I did not have cases; but used plywood and saw horses as a table. Each year I added another table and the crowd of kids and parents that visited the displays grew and grew.
In 2009, with several strong friends, I took the whole set of tables and village pieces to the Museum of Life and Science for a two week Halloween exhibit. One friend was Alan DeLisle, former Durham Assistant City Manager and a former board member of Little WORLD Charity. The museum patrons loved it but I'm not sure about the staff; as it took three days to set up the villages and it took four museum staffers a whole day to help me pack it up. Thus we needed large display cases to put permanent displays in and be able to set up quickly. A carpenter friend introduced me to Kaye and Sons, a family run cabinet manufacturer in Wake Forest. Their patience and craftsmanship allowed me to purchase a starter set of cases that Little WORLD could not exist without.
I tested the village cases in a few places; "children of all ages" loved them. I then took eight cases to First Night Raleigh on New Year's Eve of 2012 and 2013 and the reception from all kinds of people was overwhelming (see the first video in the "About" tab). These experiences grew my confidence and determination that Little WORLD could be a permanent attraction, bringing joy to people 365 days a year instead of just Halloween or New Year's Eve. Alan DeLisle and Bill Kalkhof, former CEO of Durham Downtown Development Corporation, put me in touch with contacts at the Durham Library and at Duke Children's Hospital. The Little WORLD has been a huge hit at these locations.
In December, 2014 Alan, I, and two other people formed a board of directors for Little WORLD Charity, and the State of North Carolina approved the Articles of Incorporation. The IRS approved our application for 501c3 (tax deductible) status in January. I used to reflect on how many coincidences it has taken to get this far... my being a Halloween nut, my knowing Alan, the carpenter, the cabinet maker, the invitation to be at First Night Raleigh, free web design from Robert Davis. I don't think of these as coincidences any longer; the board members and I believe that someone is watching out for us and guiding our efforts... call it God, a higher power, or whatever spiritual term you prefer. We know that the joy the charity brings is worth our best efforts and that good people and blessings will continue to be in our path.