This Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, the Alameda Family Service League will hold their 41st Holiday Home Tour.
More than 20 years ago I volunteered with AFSL and spent hours “cold-calling” local florists, trying to convince them to donate decorations and floral arrangements to the homes on tour. It wasn’t an easy job.
(No one likes to be cold-called, and therefore I will be permanently indebted to Iris Watson of , not only for saying yes but doing a beautiful job with her arrangements.)
But I made those calls, and for a worthy cause. All tour proceeds go to , an organization with just one goal: helping families.
If the current AFSL volunteer group is anything like the one I knew, it’s fabulous — truly representative of what I love most about Alameda. When I was a volunteer, no one cared whether I remembered to reapply lipstick, or if my shoes matched my handbag. And no one judged me on the prestige of my neighborhood or zip code.
In the 1980s, I belonged to a more exclusive East Bay volunteer organization. For that group, I spent more time behind the wheel getting to and from meetings in outer Contra Costa County than I did at the meetings themselves.
When it was their turn, several Contra Costa members refused to travel through the Caldecott Tunnel to attend meetings in Alameda or Oakland. (They were afraid…) Suffice it to say the organization wasn’t a good fit for me and I moved on.
I met two of my favorite Alamedans through the Alameda Family Service League – Mary Brownson and Mary Kenney. Both women were about my mother’s age and I met them shortly after she passed away unexpectedly. I was grieving and in desperately need of maternal affection. I begged both Marys to adopt me. (I kidded their daughters that they needed another sibling.)
They were good friends — nothing alike, yet equally incredible. Mary Brownson gave soul-recharging hugs and you just didn’t want to let go.
Mary Kenney reminded me of my mother – a no-nonsense, “take charge” leader who handled her responsibilities like a military strategist. She passed away a couple of years ago and I carry her in my heart, even though the adoption papers weren’t drafted in time. I can picture her and my own mother talking St. Peter into raising funds to re-pearl the heavenly gates.
Lately, with a full-time job and a part-time writing career, I have neglected volunteerism. But I can help by convincing you to support the tour. This year’s homes are all 19th century Victorian homes in or around the Gold Coast. You can walk your way through the tour. Although they won’t give out the addresses of the homes before Saturday, my spy, AFSL President Katie Honegger, said that the tour covers the area from Union Street to Encinal to Sherman and to the lagoon.
And you get to be a voyeur in someone else’s home! How fun is that? (Believe me, I am proud of our home, but not brave enough to let people poke around in my clutter piles. Hats off to these intrepid homeowners.)
Wait – there’s more! The AFSL league also hosts a craft boutique and a gourmet food shop at the . The boutique and food shop are open to the public — no ticket required.
But ticket holders receive access to all the homes, a brochure with maps and background information, tea at the , and free shuttle service from the Elks Club.
All Home Tour proceeds go directly to Alameda Family Services. Their programs offer individual and family counseling and small group assistance to children, youth and families. They work closely with other community service agencies to meet the needs of families in crisis.
If you’re busy on Saturday or home touring isn’t your thing, I know they would appreciate a donation in accordance with your budget.
Did you know that altruism activates the dopamine pathway — the same brain mechanism that makes food so pleasurable? Just think of your tax-deductible gift as a calorie-free, zero fat holiday treat that might put you one step closer to achieving your New Year’s health resolutions!
For more information call 510-629-6208 or visit or http://www.facebook.com/AlamedaHolidayHomeTour