Are your holiday decorations usually the best on your block? Are you already planning on putting up a “Christmas Vacation” level display to wow your neighbors?
If you routinely go all out to decorate your home and yard for the most wonderful time of the year, you might want to consider participating in the first Holiday Lights Tour sponsored by the Westchester Mental Health Guild!
The Westchester Mental Guild is a local nonprofit that supports the Airport Marina Counseling Service (AMCS) and is known for their fall Holiday Home Tour. The annual event, which would have celebrated its 38th anniversary this month, sees hundreds of community members visiting homes in Westchester and Playa del Rey decked out for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s no surprise that during a pandemic, however, the event had to be canceled, leaving volunteers like Guild President Linda Peterson and Fundraising Committee Chair Janie Guthrie pivoting to find a way to provide some much-needed holiday magic for the community.
“Given that we cannot do our usual Holiday Home Tour, and we want to do something fun for the community and at the same time support our great local businesses, a drive-by tour of decorated houses seemed like a good alternative,” said Peterson.
The Home Tour generally raises tens of thousands of dollars to support AMCS, a community-based mental health clinic that also trains mental health professionals. Since the Guild was established in 1962, the nonprofit has donated more than an estimated million dollars to aid AMCS’ efforts, which over the years have grown to include an immediate intervention program, an at-risk kids program, expanded group offerings and an LGBTQIA+ Center. Since March, the clinic has moved all of its counseling online and is seeing an influx of patients.
“Mental health services are needed more than ever right now,” said AMCS CEO Eden Garcia-Balis. “Over the last few months, we have seen a steady uptick in intakes for new patients, and last week we had our highest number of new patients processed since the pandemic. This has been a very stressful year for so many people, and we encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to us. We want everyone to know they are not alone. With increased patients, also comes increased costs, so we are thankful for the Guild for their support in raising money for us, and all of our donors who know the importance of mental health services.”
To make the Holiday Light Tour Contest a success, the Guild is encouraging members of the community to go big this year with lights, inflatables, elaborate holiday scenes and more. To enter your home in the contest, you will need to complete an application on the Guild’s website at westchestermhg.org by Tuesday, December 1st and are asked to make a donation of at least $25 to support AMCS.
All decorations should be up and ready for judging by December 12. Homes that are entered into the contest will then be included on a Light Tour map for community members and kids of all ages to enjoy as they drive from location to location. Maps will be made available with a $10 donation to support AMCS and will also give community members the chance to vote for their favorite displays from December 13 to the 19. Longtime Guild supporters including Jane St. John, RE/MAX; Nancy Edwards and the HomeTown News will also serve as judges. Voting will culminate on Sunday, December 20, with complimentary cookies and a hot chocolate pick-up for participants.
Besides the bragging rights that will go to this year’s decorating winners, there will also be prizes including a $200 gift card for Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant for first place; a holiday centerpiece from Flowers by Felicia valued at $100 for second place and a $50 Book Jewel gift card for third place.
“We’re looking forward to spreading some joy in the neighborhood and inviting new participants and families with children to learn more about our organization and what we do in the community,” said Guthrie. “We hope that all the homeowners get involved to decorate and that people will vote for their favorite decorations. The best part is that all the proceeds go to AMCS, which needs our support. Not to mention, you’ll have the chance to brag all year that you have the best decorated home in Westchester/Playa!”
Posted November 2020.