Homes for the holidays

House One_Lonnie and Virginia Waldon_WH1_8712

A festive tour of historic houses helps raise funds for community needs.

Story by Wendy Rose Gould • Photos by Wales Hunter

Getting into the holiday spirit sometimes requires a tiny festive nudge, and that’s exactly what Kentucky’s Williamsburg Kiwanis Club offered its community via a 12-day holiday home tour fundraiser in 2018. The premise was simple: Allow residents to tour a handful of historic homes, complete with holiday cookies, cocoa, decor and sometimes live music. 

“The city of Williamsburg has numerous beautiful homes that were built around the turn of the last century,” says Steven Jett, the club’s president. “Some are antebellum style, some were built by prominent architects and others just have a sense of flair. They’re the kind of homes that make people say, ‘I’d really like to take a look inside.’” 

House Two_Jill West_WH1_8936


Last year, 12 families opened up their homes for the tour — a play on the famous song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” — and the club secured temporarily-donated vans from local churches to tote people from one to another. Tickets cost US$30 each, and about 60 participants took the tour. Because the vans were donated and the hosts opened their homes out of goodwill, the club incurred very few overhead costs. 

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” says Jett. “Many made comments saying it really put them in the holiday mood, and you could tell that the volunteer hosts pulled out all the stops for the love of the community.”

The Kiwanians allocated funds from the home tour for the purchase and installment of a mommy-baby swing in a city park. The swing, specifically built for children with disabilities, met an unfulfilled need in the community.

“The fundraiser promotes the spirit of the holidays, but it’s also a time for Kiwanians to talk to people and remind everyone about the reason for the season,” says Jett. “It also gave us an opportunity to work as a team and to help meet the real needs of real people in our community.”

The club plans to continue the holiday home tour, perhaps on an every-other-year basis, with the goal of featuring different homes each season.

This story originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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