• Frank Haight: Holly and Mistletoe tour heralding holiday season

  • In Independence, the first Thursday in December is synonymous with an event that has become a holiday tradition – the Holly and Mistletoe Homes Tour – which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 6.

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  • In Independence, the first Thursday in December is synonymous with an event that has become a holiday tradition – the Holly and Mistletoe Homes Tour – which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 6.
    Featuring beautifully decorated homes and other structures, the event is the community’s Christmas gift from Independence Young Matrons, which inaugurated the fundraiser in 1959, spotlighting homes of nine Young Matrons.
    This year’s tour takes visitors to the Drumm Farm campus, on Lee’s Summit Road, where they will visit not only the historic director’s home, occupied by Director Brad Smith and wife Julie, but also the restored Swinney Hall, erected as a farmhouse in 1881. The IYM Sweet Shop, offering holiday treats, specialty items and coffee, is located in nearby Gardner Hall.
    The tour continues with stops at the home of Pat and Kim Baggette, 3404 Trail Ridge, Independence; Steve and Joyce Garrison, 6501 Noland Road, Kansas City; and Jim and Patt Lawlor, 4008 NW Cimarron St., Lakewood.
    Offering an open floor plan with a curved staircase, the Baggette home features a collection of nativity scenes. Erected in 1920 as a small arts and crafts farmhouse, the Garrison home features an extensive collection of Hallmark Dickens Village Christmas houses. The Lawlor home – built in 1974 – is a 1670 reproduction of a New England house, filled with furniture created by Jim Lawlor.
    Making the tour so special is it uniqueness, says Janet Reed, chairman of the 53rd annual event. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
    “These are homes that people have decorated themselves,” she says. “...They are sharing their traditions. They are sharing decorations they have made and created, and it’s a very warm, personal invitation to their home, as opposed to those (homes) professionally decorated, which, I think, makes it unique.”
    The Young Matrons have a rich heritage. As the first-ever women’s civic group in Independence, it was born in September 1940 to promote charitable and educational purposes and community services.
    “We feel that one of our major contributions ... is that we have created a culture within our organization that has fostered volunteer service and giving back to the community,” says Janet Vest, a Projects Committee member and former IYM president. “And we feel that Independence and Eastern Jackson County is a better place because of it.”
    What you may not know about the Young Matrons is that the fledgling organization was responsible for starting the first Independence kindergarten at Bryant School in 1942. It was self-sustaining until the school district took it over four years later.
    The Young Matrons also helped secure a library in Independence, which later evolved into the Mid-Continent Public Library System.
    But that’s not all.
    “We also started the Gray Ladies at the Independence Sanitarium,” says Vest, recalling the Young Matrons purchased a little cart to take different things to the patients. “When (World War II) was going on, we did many things to be supportive.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The Young Matrons’ delight is giving back to the community through its Holly and Mistletoe Homes Tour and its free Children’s Theatre, organized in 1956 to provide Independence schoolchildren a chance to see live theater.
    Sponsoring the Homes Tour each year is not done selfishly.
    “We don’t do this for ourselves. We do this for the community through the help of the people who buy the tickets and the wonderful people who open and share their homes with us,” Vest says, explaining: “(Young Matrons) are able to provide a large number of services to the greater Independence area.”
    Through the Homes Tour, “Our goal is to make $10,000 or more,” she notes, adding the Young Matrons give back to the community about $16,000 a year through the tour and other investments. “We feel that’s a pretty big contribution to the community. ... None of the money from the tour is kept.”
    As Projects Committee chair, Carolyn Turner says that as far as the tour goes, there are so many people working in so many areas that often have trouble remembering what a joy it is for everyone taking the tour. Such as the people Janet Vest heard exclaim, “Now it’s Christmas!” as they left a Holly and Mistletoe tour home.
    For more information on purchasing tickets, go to the Young Matrons Web site: www.Independenceyoungmatrons.org or call Jane McDonald, 816-478-1481.
    Frank Haight is a retired community news reporter for The Examiner. You can leave him a message at 816-350-6363.

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