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There's no place like Homes for the Holidays

Annual holiday tour a homey tradition

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

Portage's annual Homes for the Holidays tour is set for Saturday. (Supplied)

Portage's annual Homes for the Holidays tour is set for Saturday. (Supplied)

A handful of homes throughout Portage la Prairie, appropriately decorated ahead of the Christmas season, will be opening their doors as part of an annual tradition that directly supports the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

“All proceeds, everything we make, every cent, we give to Habitat for Humanity,” says Tracy Vanstone, Homes for the Holidays committee member. “It's really important that homeowners know that it's a good thing that they're doing. Opening your home is a scary thing but it's also impactful in the fact that annually we make about $20,000. That's all going to charity to help build brand new homes for local Portage people.”

Homes for the Holidays, an annual tour that dates back to 2004, is a fundraising initiative that allows community members to tour homes that have been impressively decorated for Christmas with items available for sale locally. Each year, several Portage la Prairie and area retailers and organizations generously support the initiative through sponsorship, cash donations, gifts in kind, and by providing considerable decorating talent.

Each home is sponsored by a business and either the business decorates the home with items it retails  or a business will donate items and committee members will decorate for them. This year's edition is set for Saturday and will include two separate tours of five area homes. One home is located in the rural and the remaining homes are within city limits.

“Basically your ticket is like a map,” explains Vanstone. “You'll get the five descriptions of the homes and the addresses and you pick (where to go).”

A veteran of the tour, Vanstone cautions that there is an art to planning the perfect route.

“You have to be strategic because we can get lineups at the locations,” she says. “Don't necessarily flow with the order, pick randomly. My suggestion is don't always start at (the first home listed) and don't always start with the rural.”

In addition to the many items displayed by area retailers, each home will have a pair of items up for auction including donated items and creations from local artisans. The Homes for the Holiday ticket includes a coupon that offers discounted prices on displayed items and many area businesses offer extended hours on the day of the tour for anyone wishing to purchase what they saw.

The afternoon tour is set for 12-4 p.m., followed by the 5-9 p.m. evening tour. As for more advice to the novice tourer, Vanstone suggests allotting a half hour of time per home.

“Sometimes people can go through it in 10 minutes but we have some really big houses this year where you may need a little bit of time,” adds Vanstone, who has been involved in the annual fundraiser for three years. “For me it's about giving back. You want people to be contributing members of the community and this is just one way I can give back.”

Tickets for the tour are $25 each and are available at the following locations:

Bison Boutique Flower and Gift, MacGregor

Bryson's Gift and Convenience

Canadian Tire

Mil-Jeanne Flowers & Axcenz

Portage & District Arts Centre

Schapansky’s Florist & Rentals

Solomon’s Home Garden Gift

Each year hundreds of people take part in the annual tour that has raised over $200,000 for Portage's Habitat for Humanity. The local chapter is currently working on two homes for a pair of local families with a completion date expected for early 2018.




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