Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Home tour fundraiser for needy kids short on homes

BARBARA COTTER Updated: October 11, 2011 at 12:00 am

Notice to North End homeowners: The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary wants to take over your digs.

It’s just for a weekend, and it’s for a good cause, but so far, the organization is having trouble finding enough people willing to let their homes be included in SAWA’s seventh annual Historic Holiday Home Tour, the group’s major fundraiser for Salvation Army children’s programs.

“We’re not real sure why people are hesitant, but they are more hesitant this year than they have been in the past,” said Maj. Judy Bennett, who, with her husband, is the El Paso County coordinator for the Salvation Army. “There are not a lot of reasons given.”

The tour takes place the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving, and typically includes five homes that are at least 100 years old, all decorated to the nines for the holidays. As of Tuesday, SAWA had two houses and one bed and breakfast lined up, but auxiliary president Joyce Robinson is hoping to add two more houses.

“We have a group of people that really enjoy this tour and really are very faithful to us,” Robinson said. “We need five houses.”

It’s not just the integrity of the tour that’s at stake, but the money the tour brings in for Salvation Army programs that benefit needy children, including an afterschool program, day camps and children’s programs at the organization’s R.J. Montgomery homeless shelter. Last year’s tour raised about $14,700 of the $31,000 that went toward playground equipment, afterschool and daycare scholarships, Christmas gifts for teens, school clothing and supplies and art supplies, among other things.

The funds have become increasingly critical to the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Community Center’s drop-in center and summer camp for teens and children, Bennett said. The Colorado Child Care Contribution Tax Credit used to provide money to the programs, but it no longer exists.

“Income is definitely down for our children’s programs,” Bennett said. “In fact, we just had to lay off two people — 50 percent of our staff — in our children’s programs. So being able to come up with these homes is vital to operate this particular fundraiser.”

Peggy McKinlay and her husband opened their Wood Avenue home to the tour last year, and she understands why some people might be hesitant. Strangers traipse through the house over two days. Homeowners are expected to decorate, although SAWA has designers who will take on the job for free.

“But they have people stationed throughout your house, so it’s not like people are just wandering through and no one’s keeping an eye on things,” McKinlay said. “And it’s not like you can’t be here if you want to be, or you can be gone all weekend. I was happy to do it, and I think it’s a great cause.”

TO GET ON BOARD
North End homeowners who want to include their house in the Historic Holiday Home Tour can call Maj. Judy Bennett at 636-5167. Homes must be at least 100 years old, and not have been part of previous tours.

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