Jessica White knows it takes a lot of work to prepare a house for the Newton Dollars For Scholars Tour of Homes, but luckily she enjoys decorating.
And it certainly showed this past Saturday when several visitors marveled at her holiday-themed decor and Iowa Hawkeye-inspired “girl cave” in the basement, complete with a custom-made shuffleboard table. Positive feedback is quite common during the Tour of Homes, but none is as rewarding as a collective, audible gasp from astounded guests at the sight of a walk-in kitchen cupboard, Which totally did happen and was quite comical.
White, of course, is just happy to share her home and discuss every detail and decoration. As a daughter of a flower shop owner in Grinnell, White said she has decorating and designing “in her blood.” Still, preparations began about a month prior to the tour.
“We kind of just did what we thought and would look and say, ‘What more do we have?’ So we just kept adding to it,” White said. “I feel anybody can do this. It just takes a little time. You can add your own special touch, and I think everybody has a special touch.”
Ellen Graber’s “special touch” may have been Christmas trees. Inside her home were roughly a dozen (or more) trees of varying sizes. All were fully decorated and had their own special personality.
One tree in the living room was adorned with beautiful, gold and silver ornaments that glistened brightly when the sun rays peaked through the windows.
A smaller tree in the basement was covered in Green Bay Packers gear and trinkets next to the fireplace, the perfect spot for Sunday games.
Also in the basement was a tree packed with nothing but snowman ornaments; so much so that there was barely any tree left. Oh! And another tree was made to look like a snowman.
Graber’s tree game was spot on. Each one accentuated the room it occupied perfectly. Tour of Homes was something Graber “always wanted to do.” Like White, the preparation was a bit tough. Graber put in three weeks of work to get each room and every tree to look the way she wanted it to.
However, having all those Christmas trees around the house, she said, is the norm during the holiday season. Having been a spectator of a Tour of Homes in the past, Graber said she loves looking at the different decorations of homeowners, which give her plenty of ideas to try.
“You like to see what other people do,” Graber said. “It’s like the snowman tree downstairs — I saw that at the Festival of Trees in Des Moines several years ago. So I’ve probably had that down there for about four years.”
Last year, Jim and Sherri Long were also spectators of the Tour of Homes. Now, the husband-and-wife duo were hosting their house for this year’s charity.
“We like to do it because it’s for such a good cause,” Jim Long said. “When you read about how many scholarships they provide, it really motivates you. It’s a lot of work but we feel like it’s a way to give back to the community.”
Vicki Wade, vice-president of the Newton chapter of Dollars For Scholars, said the organization is part of a nationally recognized Scholarship America.
Different schools and other entities can elect to be a member of Scholarship America, and as a result Dollars For Scholars has resources available and an application process in which Newton High School and WEST Academy seniors can apply for scholarships. Ticket sales of the tour go toward senior scholarships.
“Our program — the Newton chapter — has done so well over the years, that we actually give what we call a ‘Red Pride Scholarship’ in addition to the Dollars For Scholars scholarship,” Wade said. “So in years past examples of that would be: a $500 scholarship would become $1,000 with the Red Pride added on.
“Our goal is any student who applies for a scholarship and meets the minimum qualifications will receive a scholarship of some type of amount. The organization has been extremely generous over the years, giving anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 a year out in various scholarships.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org