The houses you see on a home tour are like stars in a blockbuster Hollywood film. With help from a crew of interior designers, florists, caterers, landscapers, and dozens of others attending to every minute detail, they represent an elevated level of lifestyle perfection that we all aspire to. You walk from home to home—glossy tour guide in hand—taking mental notes of which kitchen you covet most, which master bathroom you will be referring to when talking to your decorator, and which stunning tablescape design made you want to go out and buy a whole new set of china.
As participants in this age-old North Shore pastime, you get to have all the fun of peeking inside some of the finest homes in the area. But as anyone who has ever toiled behind the scenes—on the crew, if you will—know that the magic that happens on the day of the tour is months of real, not-always-so-glamorous, hard work in the making.
For more than 15 years, The Spirit of 67 Foundation has been hosting its “Opening Doors for Education” home tour to help fund programs and projects at Cherokee, Everett, and Sheridan Elementary schools (K-4) and Deer Path Middle School (5-8). It’s been a successful venture, contributing significant revenue (nearly $75,000 last year alone) to important District 67 projects. But it’s a massive undertaking, one that would not be possible without a devoted crew of volunteers and community supporters.
“Each person involved may be a small piece of the puzzle, but it’s truly incredible to see how invested everyone is in making the home tour a success,” explains Meg Lynch, one of three co-chairs for the 2018 “Opening Doors for Education” tour. “The common tag line we have been using is ‘It takes a village.’ The home tour starts with the families who so generously share their homes with our community. Those homes have been built, decorated, and landscaped by members within our community and many, if not most, of those behind the scenes individuals have children within District 67. It also takes the businesses and families who so graciously provide sponsorships, including the florists and decorators who dedicate their time and talent to getting the houses prepared for the big day.”
Those sentiments were echoed not only by Lynch’s two other co-chairs—Erica Granado and Lisa FlorJancic—but also Teri Albus, president of the Spirit of 67 Foundation, and Christine Goshgarian, the organization’s vice president of special events.
“The home tour is about so much more than interior design, architecture, and beauty. It’s about local families opening their homes, sharing their lives, and coming together to raise money for our kids,” says Albus, joining Lynch, Granado, and FlorJancic and their children at a photo shoot at one of this year’s four homes earlier this spring. “This is our 16th Spirit of 67 home tour. That means 64 local families have truly opened their doors to education. The home tour raises money for grants to enrich the lives of the students in every District 67 school, every day. From music to board games to science labs and everything in between, your support makes the difference.”
The energy surrounding the co-chairs and their families that day was almost contagious. As Lake Forest designer Shelley Johnstone prepared a delectable tablescape “preview” in the dining room and another just for the kids in the kitchen, one boy was overheard asking his mother, “This is all for the Cherokee playground, right, Mom?”
Yes, she said. That’s one of the projects this year—one of many. In fact, each of the four homes on the 2018 tour will feature a different grant for a different school endeavor.
“Each student, teacher, administrator, and parent is encouraged to submit a grant proposal for items, ideas, and experiences that will enhance the in-school experience,” explains Granado, serving on the home tour committee for the fourth year as a volunteer and the second as a co-chair. “Funds raised over the years have also been used to update our school’s playgrounds and this year; Cherokee Elementary will be getting their playground renovation. I am not sure our community is always aware of the level of support that the Spirit of 67 provides to make these things a reality, and that this is something that is available to the entire community to access and take advantage of during non-school hours.”
FlorJancic, who relocated with her family from Dallas five years ago, admits that she was a bit intimidated to join the co-chair crew for the first time this year. “But from the moment we hit go, I was put at ease by all the support from the Spirit of 67 board members and committee. They were clearly rooting for us and they were going to support us,” she says. “These women on the committee—and in our community—are so dedicated to helping raise money for our children and so sincere and genuine in lending a helping hand.”
The elegantly appointed 2011 home where they all gathered that March day for our Forest & Bluff photo shoot is emblematic of what “Opening Doors for Education” has come to mean in Lake Forest. Built by Lake Forest Landmark Development and designed by Shelley Johnstone, the five-bedroom, six-bathroom house is a family home in every way—from an outdoor covered patio terrace with a wood-burning fireplace to an open floor plan that works for balancing the children’s busy schedule with the parents’ commitments to entertain in style.
“I love that each home is the vision of the homeowners and is designed to meet the needs of their family life,” says Granado. “It’s always amazing to walk through homes and hear why homeowners built or redesigned their home to meet the needs of today’s family.”
However, as the “Opening Doors for Education” tour reaches its 16th year and looks forward to the future, Albus and Spirit of 67 Foundation have announced one important change, effective this year. What started as an annual event will now become biennial, a move that organizers hope will make the event more impactful for the organization and neighboring nonprofit groups who host similar home tours in the spring.
“It requires a great deal of resources to secure homes year after year. In addition, our event requires a lot of volunteers to make it happen, which can be challenging on the years that the Infant Welfare Society hosts their Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens event,” says Granado, explaining that rather than compete with the Infant Welfare home tour, also in May, Spirit of 67 can help support that cause by hosting a different type of event in years that the show house is taking place.
Because at the end of the day, regardless of which home tour is attracting attention with their “stars” of the year, it all comes back to the community—and that endless roll of credits at the end of the film that many never take the time to read or acknowledge.
In the case of Spirit of 67’s “Opening Doors for Education,” that crew includes 180 volunteers, 140 businesses, and more hours than anyone can count.
“In every home you visit, you will see reminders of the work we accomplish when we put our ideas, dollars, and generous spirit together,” adds Albus. “What you won’t see is the village of moms and dads who work tirelessly to bring this event to life. More than 50 percent of District 67 families support Spirit of 67, and the programs that support provides can literally open doors for our kids.”
The 2018 “Opening Doors for Education” tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 pm. on Thursday, May 10. For tickets and more information, visit spiritof67foundation.org.