Beau­ti­ful homes in your neigh­bour­hood

Maybe a home tour is for you


Tara O’Don­nell had a long love of house tours, a bunch of neigh­bours who had re­cently done kitchen ren­o­va­tions and a com­pas­sion­ate heart when she learned Haven House, a women’s shel­ter in Cam­bridge, had not reached its fundrais­ing goals.

In an “aha” mo­ment, the Kitch­ener woman de­cided to see if she could gar­ner enough sup­port to hold a tour of these kitchens to raise funds for Haven House.

“It was ‘from our home for your home’ kind of think­ing,” O’Don­nell said in an in­ter­view. “I also sit on the Au­di­to­rium Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion and it’s our goal to do grass­roots ac­tiv­i­ties. I thought this would be per­fect.”

In fact, she would like to see other neigh­bour­hoods copy the con­cept.

“We don’t own this idea,” she says. “I would like to see it in dif­fer­ent parts of the city. And it could be for dif­fer­ent char­i­ties. There’s a lot of room to do a tour that suits your neigh­bour­hood.

“Peo­ple shy away from vol­un­teer work think­ing they don’t have the time. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. This was pretty sim­ple to or­ga­nize and once the tour is over, you’re done.”

There are a few large-scale home and gar­den tours in Kitch­ener already, and O’Don­nell didn’t want to com­pete with them. This was al­ways in­tended to be a tour within the neigh­bour­hood, she says.

So to keep it small and man­age­able, only 10 homes were on the tour and only 100 tick­ets were sold at $25 each. It ran for three hours on a Sun­day af­ter­noon in Jan­uary – dur­ing that lull af­ter Christ­mas and be­fore life gears up again, she says.

Most of the pro­mo­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion hap­pened over Face­book, keep­ing costs to a min­i­mum. The tick­ets were paid for be­fore tour day. The neigh­bour­hood as­so­ci­a­tion helped cover some print­ing costs for tick­ets, posters and flow­ers for the home­own­ers on tour day.

Many of the home­own­ers pro­vided re­fresh­ments or found spon­sors to do so.

One of the home­own­ers was also a graphic artist and she de­signed the tick­ets. Louise Jes­sup makes framed styl­ized maps that she sells on Etsy through her busi­ness “All Over the Map.” The tour tick­ets used that same for­mat, fea­tur­ing a map of the Au­di­to­rium neigh­bour­hood and the tour home lo­ca­tions.

“She does these cool maps and we had such good feed­back on the tick­ets,” O’Don­nell says. “Af­ter the tour she con­tin­ued to sell the maps and that money went to Haven House as well.”

O’Don­nell says her neigh­bour­hood also holds a porch party in the sum­mer with a mu­si­cian play­ing on ev­ery porch.

She’s plan­ning a sec­ond home tour for Jan­uary 2018 and already has a dozen homes lined up. But in­stead of hav­ing a kitchen fo­cus, this one is a Mys­tery Tour, she says, in­clud­ing base­ment, bath­room and at­tic ren­o­va­tions.

“These small ef­forts can make a big dif­fer­ence in build­ing a sense of neigh­bour­hood. And help­ing worth­while char­i­ties,” she notes.

Any­one want­ing more in­for­ma­tion on or­ga­niz­ing a home tour can con­tact O’Don­nell through the Au­di­to­rium Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion at Au­di­to­ri­

We don’t own this idea. . . . There’s a lot of room to do a tour that suits your neigh­bour­hood.” TARA O’DON­NELL

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