Christmas home tour raises funds for garden club, eagle sanctuary

Lance Shearer
Refreshments were provided at each home. Hundreds toured Friday afternoon through four homes decked out for the holidays in the Marco Island Christams Home Tour, sponsored by the Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island and Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary.

A new event on the busy Marco Island pre-Christmas calendar helped put some “green” in the garden club, and gave the island’s resident eagles an assist in feathering their nest.

Friday afternoon, the inaugural Christmas Home Tour took place, raising funds for the Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island and the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary. A sellout group of 203 toured four island houses all decked out for the holidays, exclaiming over the decorations and making notes on which ideas to appropriate for their own homes. It was a sellout because 203 people, which roughly equates to 200 women and three intrepid men, was all that could be accommodated on the tour buses that squired the “tourists” around from home to home.

Linda Turner, who plays a leading role in in both organizations, took the lead in creating the home tour, and offered up “Pineapple Cottage,” the home she shares with husband Jerry Swiacki, as one of the tour destinations.

“I love Christmas. We do a lot of decorating, and I thought, ‘let’s make it a benefit.’” Each home featured two extravagant Christmas-themed centerpieces, which were raffled off to attendees. At each home, volunteers from the two organizations also sold poinsettias and the gardening guide published by the garden club.

Numerous chairpeople toiled away, arranging transportation, raffles, and the refreshments that were offered at each home.

Poinsettias featured prominently in the décor of several of the homes on display, including filling the old-style clawfoot bathtub at Pineapple Cottage. In a nod to living in the subtropics, and the balmy weather that prevailed Friday, the holiday fireplaces that crackled in the hearths were playing on the wide-screen high-def televisions.

Hostess Brittany Stoller’s home décor included a sign reading “It’s beginning to look a lot like cocktails,” a sentiment to which many on the island can relate. Plus a retro record player spinning Bing Crosby tunes on a vertical 12-inch vinyl disk.

“I did the Florida room, and Marco Island Florist did everything else,” said Stoller.

Homeowner Wendy Morell enlisted the aid of daughter Julie, 21, who came down from FGCU and showed mom how to find a loop of Christmas music on YouTube. After all, what are kids for?

Funds raised from the event will go the garden club’s Junior Gardener program at Tommie Barfield Elementary, as well as educational outreach efforts at the school sponsored by the bird sanctuary.