Every year, Kansas City organizations deck the halls with two goals in mind: to raise philanthropic dollars and provide an array of holiday decorating ideas to visitors of their homes tours.
For 30 years, the Liberty Soroptimist Club has done both in spades. Its homes tours have raised almost a quarter of a million dollars to benefit local women and girls, while also showing guests how holiday decorating is done.
Unlike other homes tours, the Liberty Soroptimists don’t hire designers or florists to make their homes tour-ready. Susan Zietlow, co-chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, says members represent a wide variety of professions, including interior design, so in the 1990s they decided to do all of the decorating themselves.
Zietlow knows that their visitors look for decorating trends that might usually be offered by professionals and that they want to know “how to blend those trends with their everyday furnishings and decor, since that is a real challenge every year. Our tour not only addresses this challenge but embraces it, and we’re proud of the results,” she says.
Each of the four homes on the tour this year has a theme: Resolution Residence; Magnolia and Mistletoe; Family First; and Historic Hotel Loft.
Patti Downey’s house is Resolution Residence, so called because she’s working in New Year’s decorating as well, complete with a tree for visitors to hang their resolutions on. This is the third time Downey has decorated for the tour. She worked with a designer the first time but says that decorating without one is more personal.
For instance, among her favorite pieces are her family’s hand-made Christmas stockings — would a designer have included those? She’s pretty sure a designer would have shunned her beloved bubble lights — you know, the lights with the colorful percolating fluid dancing inside.
She’s also proud to display her Lladro Nativity set, which took years to collect. The porcelain figurines, each measuring about 10 inches tall, are from Spain. Downey’s set covers a 4-foot area.
And this year she came up with the idea of a “memory garland” she hopes others will try on their own trees. She has written the dates and a short description of monumental moments in her life on cards that are tied to a burgundy ribbon and entwined in the tree’s branches.
But she understands from her experience in other years that with the exception of the bubble lights, there’s no predicting what tour-goers will be fascinated by. Items she thinks of as fillers are interesting to her visitors.
Karen Wahl, a fellow Soroptimist member, will be as surprised by her house’s décor as her visitors will. She’s leaving town for a few days, and her friends will finish decorating her Mistletoe and Magnolia themed house while she’s gone.
Of course, she knows that the nutcracker she bought in Germany years ago will be displayed. She has also put out a couple of the four trees herself: the one with the Hallmark airplane ornaments that she collects for her husband, a pilot, as well as the tree with the collection of Hallmark angels.
But she’s not quite sure what else mother-daughter duo Lydia Arnold and Laurel Bruening will use to transform her 2,400-square-foot home.
The Soroptimists are hoping to increase the tour’s traffic from 400 visitors to about 1,000 this year.
The club has partnered with South Valley Middle School this year, Zietlow says, and has asked the students to decorate eight outdoor Christmas trees with recycled or found objects.
Working with a school is right in line with one of the club’s tenets that keeps Downey participating year to year.
“We support education for women and girls, and we give scholarships for women who are returning to schools and have families and are fitting education back in so they can better their lives and the lives of their children,” she says. “That’s been a near and dear cause for me.”
A guide to holiday homes tours
Liberty Holiday Homes Tour: Four homes. 1-5 p.m. Nov. 11-12. Tickets are $16 in advance at www.picatic.com/holidayhomestour; at the Red Apron, 1090 County Road H; and at Liberty Women’s Clinic, 11 N. Gallatin St. Red Apron will be open during the tour. Benefits Liberty Women’s Clinic.
Soroptimist Holiday Homes Tour: Four homes. Noon-5 p.m. Nov. 18; $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Tickets may be purchased through eventbrite.com; at Brant’s on the Square; BankLiberty on Barry Road or in Liberty; Platte Valley Bank in Liberty; or Hair Lines. Contact Susan Zietlow for more information, 704-996-3856. Benefits local charities and scholarships for women and girls.
Topeka CASA 30th Anniversary Tour: Five homes. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 18-19. Tickets are $12 in advance at Topeka area Hy-Vees and other area locations. $15 at the door. Benefits CASA, which trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court and foster systems. casaofshawneecounty.com.
Ben Ferrel Platte County Museum: Winter Wonderland: 5-8 p.m. Nov. 22. Tour the museum for free; contributions welcome, chance to win prizes. Noon-5, Dec. 7-9 various activities at the museum. Each room will be decorated for the theme, as well as with Nativity scenes and Christmas trees. 220 Ferrel St., Platte City. rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mopchgs
Westport Historical Society: Christmas Candlelight Tour: Tour the Harris-Kearney House and celebrate a Prairie Christmas 1860 with festive decorations, Christmas Eve scenarios and refreshments. Tours begin every 15 minutes from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 24-25. Adults, $10; active military, free; retired military, $7; students, $8; children 6 and under, free. Reservations are not required, but can be made by calling 816-561-1821 or 913-648-0952. More information at westporthistorical.com.
Bingham-Waggoner Estate: “I’ll be Home for Christmas”: Tour of the 26-room decorated historic home. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24-Dec. 30 (except Dec. 23-25). Twilight tour 4-7 p.m. Dec. 3. Adults, $6; kids 6-16, $3. Tea room and gift shop open during business hours. Funds raised help preserve the estate. BWEstate.org.
Vaile Mansion: “Victorian Holiday Elegance”: See the elaborate decorations of a Victorian Christmas. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24-Dec. 30 (except Dec. 23-25). Adults, $6; kids 6-16, $3. vailemansion.org.
36th Annual Weston Candlelight Tour: Tour historic homes. 5-8 p.m. Dec. 1, includes light dinner at Eventful with seatings at 5-6:30 or 7-8:30 p.m.; limited to 300 tickets, $35 each. Tour only, noon-8 p.m. Dec. 2; noon-5 p.m. Dec. 3; $15 in advance, $20 day of the tour. For more info, visit the events calendar at WestonMO.com or call 816-640-2909.
Fort Scott Homes for the Holidays Tour: Moonlight and Mistletoe tour, 6-8 p.m. Dec. 1 ($35 tickets include appetizers, cocktails and weekend tour as well); or self-guided tours 11 a.m.-5 p.m Dec. 2 and noon-4 Dec. 3. Tickets are $15 for weekend tour. Purchase at Fort Scott Tourism Center, 231 E. Wall St. Benefits the Historic Preservation Association of Bourbon County. Call 620-224-1186 for more information.
Pendleton Heights Home Tour and Artist Market: Tour five historic homes. Noon-5 p.m. Dec. 2; tour begins at 319 Park Ave. Purchase work of local artists and enjoy a variety of food trucks. Tickets are $12 in advance through the website, $15 at the door. Proceeds benefit Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association projects. PendletonHeights.org.
Vaile Mansion’s Champagne & Chandeliers-Christmas & All That Jazz: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 2; tickets are $40 per person and include games, refreshments, chance to win door prizes. 1500 N. Liberty St., Independence. Guests are encouraged to dress in 1920s style. For reservations call: 816-796-6322. VaileMansion.org.
30th Annual Health Care Access Holiday Home Tour of Lawrence: Eight homes. Noon-5 p.m. Dec. 3; tickets $20 online at healthcareaccess.org/holiday-homes-tour and at both Lawrence Hy-Vee grocery stores. Holiday Shoppe and bake sale open 11 a.m. at the Smith Center at Brandon Woods, 4730 Brandon Woods Terrace. Benefits Health Care Access.
66th Annual Kappa Kappa Gamma Tour: Four homes. 1-8 p.m. Dec. 6; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 7; tickets are $25 in advance at Hen House stores or on tour’s website; or $30 at the door. Benefits several local nonprofits. Boutique is at Indian Hills Country Club, 6847 Tomahawk Road, Mission Hills. kappahomestour.com/
Sixth Annual Mantels and Martinis: Tour homes in the Reserve at Winterset Valley in Lee’s Summit. 5-8:30 p.m. Dec. 7; appetizers and a holiday martini in each home. Benefits Kyle’s Gift and Special Olympics. Tickets $45, 21 and older only. Price includes a decorated martini glass. For more information, see Mantels and Martinis’ Facebook page.
58th Annual Independence Young Matrons Holly & Mistletoe Tour: Historic Vaile Mansion and three other homes. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 7; Sweet Shop at Community of Christ Church, 416 N. Liberty. Tickets $12 in advance, see website for outlets; $15 at the door. Benefits local charities. independenceyoungmatrons.org.
John Wornall House Candlelight Tour: 6-8:30 p.m. Dec. 8-9. Explore Christmas on the frontier. See, smell, touch, taste and hear Christmas traditions from the Civil War era. Tours leave every 30 minutes and last one hour. Tickets $15 on website, by phone or at door, includes refreshments. Special presentation by Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. 6115 Wornall Road. WornallMajors.org.
26th Annual Leavenworth Candlelight Vintage Home Tour: Seven vintage homes. 1-7 p.m. Dec. 10. Tickets $15 in advance, see website for outlets, or $20 at the door. Benefits Leavenworth County Historical Society. LeavenworthHistory.org.
Anne Kniggendorf, Special to The Star