The Dunedin Youth Guild's 42nd annual self-guided holiday tour is dubbed "Angels at Work." Considering what the 80-member guild does for young people in the community, we find the name quite divine.
The 2010 holiday tour raised a record $25,000 and all proceeds from that and another fundraiser were funneled right back to the kids.
"Last year we gave over $15,000 in scholarships to high school students," said Jody Lambuth, event chair. She said another $13,000 was divvied up between the Dunedin Fine Art Center's children's museum, scouting troops, the Clothes to Kids organization and more.
So once again, they encourage one and all to step up and "be an angel" by buying a tour ticket ($20 in advance; $25 the day of). Ticket holders are invited to a complementary tea held this year in the cafeteria at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
And everyone (ticket holder or not) is invited to stop by the boutique and shop for special gifts and stocking stuffers.
Bring along canned and nonperishable food items for donation to local food pantries.
Five homes, the North Pinellas Historical Museum and the 125-year-old Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Dunedin make up this year's tour. Each has its own special holiday style and story to tell.
One must-see home on the tour is that belonging to Susan and Lee Weatherford. The two-story traditional home was custom built to reflect their love of family and the holiday season.
"I come from a large family where Christmases were always big," she said. "We designed the home to accommodate all our decorations."
Special spaces were built in the garage and attic. The couple even thought to place extra outlets around the rooms and above kitchen cabinetry. Two master control switches run the interior and exterior lights.
It takes a village to make holidays special and their enormous collection of Department 56 homes and buildings is replete with a railroad train and variety of animated scenes.
But that's just the beginning. There are brigades of nutcrackers, a pack of Georgia black bears, an enclave of elves and a gang of skiing snowmen who have taken over an entire bathroom including the tub.
Just a short walk away is the home of Dunedin City Commissioner Julie Scales and her husband, retired Col. David Scales.
Please note the Scottish Santa that greets you inside the entrance to the home along with a childhood picture of Julie on Santa's lap.
"It's evidence I'm a natural blonde," she quips.
The home reflects their love of art, travel, adventure and dogs. It also showcases inherited Japanese World War II-era items including a striking red kimono and a pair of Imari porcelain plates on a mantel.
Angels abound in the waterfront home of Donna and George Tarsitano.
"I collect angels, so this year's angel theme is easy for me," she said.
The homeowners bought their Island Estates home in March and had it completely renovated to suit their Mediterranean tastes, religious beliefs and heritage. An enormous new kitchen was created from three former rooms and features expansive views of Clearwater Harbor.
A cheerful Christmas village and a collection of large-scale carousel horses are just a few of the special touches.
The home and studio of Nina Winters features her works of art and some artifacts from her trips to Africa and South America.
She's created a sculpture competition for children ages 8 to 18 and interested parties are encouraged to sign a guestbook.
Don't miss one of the original homes built in 1910 in Crystal Beach. Owned by antique store owners Pat and Marty Pehl, it exudes not only history, but Christmas warmth and happiness.
Angels have been at work here for over a century as the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd on Edgewater Drive celebrates its 125th anniversary.
"We believe this is the longest continuous-use church building in Pinellas," said Rector Becky Robbins-Penniman.
It took the congregation three years (1886 to 1888) to build the Carpenter Gothic-style church. Handmade pews, original stained glass windows, lovely chandeliers and a custom built pipe organ, obtained in 1983, are the hallmarks of this sanctuary.
In the 1970s, parishioners created red needlepoint kneeling cushions for communions — each tells stories of the Bible.
Though it wasn't decorated for Times cameras, the church will be awash with Christmas décor for the tour.
Constructed around 1915 by "Judge" Thomas and Ida Hartley, the two-story rusticated block home that houses the North Pinellas Historical Museum features exhibits, displays and furnishings which tell the early history of Palm Harbor, Crystal Beach, Ozona and the Curlew communities.
The original kitchen is set with a Christmas tea set and a few jars of authentic blood orange marmalade.
Of special interest is a large Victorian dollhouse shown in the round in the Citrus Room. The dollhouse and contents are said to be valued at $60,000.
In the parlor, an elegant Christmas tree dazzles in white and silver.
While there, be sure and bid on silent auction items. The proceeds benefit the museum and the winners will be announced Dec. 4.; patrons need not be present to win.
Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at email@example.com