Akron house tours for the season help LGBT community

A community member wearing shoe covers walks up the stairs of a house built in 1887 owned by Alice Christie, who received her Ph.D. from Kent State in 1992, during the 15th annual Sugar Plum Tour in Akron, Ohio, on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.

Austin Mariasy

More than 1,000 people attended the 15th Annual Sugar Plum Tour in Akron and raised over $125,000 strictly from ticket sales for the Akron Community Foundation’s Gay Community Endowment Fund (GCEF) Sunday.

Raffle ticket and auction sales have yet to be counted.

The tour consisted of five different homes, which were decorated to celebrate Christmas. One house is owned by Alice Christie, a 1992 graduate of Kent State.

Christie, who graduated from Kent State with a Ph.D. in early childhood education in 1992, opened her 1887 home to the Sugar Plum Tour. As visitors left through the back family room, Christie explained a brief history of the house to them. 

Walking through the house, visitors noticed the dozens of bronze baby shoes scattered around. Christie said she found a pair in an antique shop in 1990 for just $4.

“They were just so cute,” she said. Christie said she has “probably hundreds more in the basement,” but she didn’t bring them up for the tour. 

Virginia Albanese, a member of Kent State’s Board of Trustees, attended the tour for the second time Sunday in order to “see beautiful homes get into the spirit of Christmas and to support a great cause.”

Albanese supports GCEF because it is a “celebration of differences.” She said she believes it is important to have funding for GCEF in order to help LGBT organizations work toward equality.

The funds raised through the tour will be donated to the Gay Community Endowment Fund through the Akron Community Foundation. GCEF will then disperse the funds to LGBT organizations across Northeastern Ohio.

According to John Garofalo, Akron Community Foundation vice president of community investing, GCEF gave $42,000 in grants to LGBT organizations in Northeast Ohio. Kent State’s LGBTQ Student Center also received money from GCEF.

LGBTQ Student Center Director Ken Ditlevson sent out an email Wednesday urging people to consider attending the event, since GCEF gives grants to the center’s QUEST Mentorship Program. 

The program pairs LGBT college students — who may be having a hard time coming out to their family or even accepting their own sexuality — with LGBT community members, who serve as their mentors. 

Steve Williams has served as the chairman for the Sugar Plum Tour for the past five years.

Williams explained there are multiple ways by which a community member could contribute to the tour. One could donate $25 per person and gain general admission into all the houses on the tour. Members can also become a patron by donating $150, which invites them to a thank-you reception after the general tour. Finally, a perso can also become a sponser.

Also invited to the thank-you reception are the sponsors of the event. A community member is considered a sponsor by donating over $150 to the tour. Williams said this year they received their first-ever $10,000 donation.

“I love Sugar Plum,” Williams said. “It’s such a worthwhile fundraiser.”

Austin Mariasy is a photographer, contact him at [email protected].