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Spencer Christmas home tour to raise funds for village lights

by Cheyenne Thomas

Whenever there has been a need in the Spencer community that could better the lives of the people in it, the Spencer Woman’s Club has been there to help. This year, the club has taken on the challenge to bring better Christmas lights to the Spencer village streets.

The Spencer Woman’s Club will be hosting A Joyful Christmas Tour at six locations within Spencer on Dec. 1 from 1-5 p.m. The funds raised through ticket sales for the tour will be used to purchase new Christmas lights to replace the old lights which have become dim and unreliable with age.

“The older decorations, any snow or rain causes them to pop the circuits,” said Deb Schafer, the village deputy clerk and treasurer. “It’s a battle every year. It’s time to get them updated with better lights.”

Schafer said the village of Spencer currently has about 40 lights it hangs on its light poles on Clark Street and Highway 13 each winter. These lights have been used for at least nine years, when the last effort was made to purchase new lights, though most are much older. As a result of their age, she said the village constantly has to deal with the lights flickering, going dim or sparking and has had to turn them off on several occasions, ruining the point of having them up in the first place.

“Safety of course is a factor, when they pop, we end up turning them off. We’re fussing with them all the time,” she said. “There’s next to no risk for the public’s safety. The lights when going down (Highway) 13 are very dim, we want to provide a better quality ornament.”

Costs for new lights, however, are high, making it hard for the village to try to purchase them on its own. Enter the Spencer Woman’s Club, led by president Mary Zahn. Zahn said the Spencer Woman’s Club has several fundraisers it operates — such as selling Christmas wreaths in the winter, and pies and cookies at events during the rest of the year — and funds raised from those events are then used to support numerous other area organizations and efforts, including those undertaken by the village.

“We think of things to do for the community,” she said. “We help with Lunch with Santa, bingo for the elderly, we help with May baskets and help put together welcome bags for any new homeowners in the community and make cookies for the Tack Center shows.”

When Zahn heard that the village was looking at its aging Christmas lights, she said the group began to think about ways to raise the money to purchase new ones. With new lights to replace the approximately 40 lights lining the streets costing between $300-$500 each, the club knew it would be hard to get them all replaced.

“Even when we were just talking as club members, they were shocked by how expensive they were,” she said.

Nonetheless, the club began its fundraising effort in the spring with its pie and cookie sales, raising enough money to purchase a couple lights for the village. When thinking about additional fundraisers they could do, Zahn said she began thinking back to events that used to be held in Spencer and events other communities did to fund-raise. The tour of homes came to mind.

“Years ago, Spencer did it. The tour of homes is an awesome fundraiser,” she said. “I love to decorate, being a member of the club, I wanted to bring it back as a fundraiser for our community.”

To get the idea going, Zahn said she began reaching out to others, who, like her, loved decorating. One after another, they agreed to open up their homes to visitors for the fundraiser. She also contacted a couple of businesses and got two to agree to participate.

“I just thought of people who liked to decorate and asked for them to help with the Christmas lights,” she said. “I was lucky enough for four to say yes and two were nice enough to open their new businesses to us.” The homes on the Joyful Christmas Tour route are located almost in a circle on the southwestern portion of the village and will include decorations and styles unique to the family’s own traditions and tastes. The four homes on the tour are: the James and Amie Kelnhofer residence at 305 S. Madison St.; the home of Roger and Bev Roehl at 505 W. Buse St.; the home of Jeff and Mary Zahn at 705 W. Clark St.; and the Doug and Jenny Leonhardt residence at N9291 Fairhaven Ave.

There will also be two businesses on the tour, which will also have refreshments available. The McNeely Insurance Agency, LLC, located a 202 W. Clark St., just opened at the new location on Oct. 28 after remodeling a building that first housed a barber shop. Amie’s Cut Loose, located a 1103 S. LaSalle St., also opened for the first time this year.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout,” said Zahn. “We want to make it a fun, special day with the family together, with us. We want to make it a memorable experience.”

As the Woman’s Club finishes final preparations for the tour, the village of Spencer acknowledged the club’s efforts to bring holiday cheer and a better appearance to the streets. The village would like to thank the Woman’s Club for their efforts in the village,” said Schafer on behalf of the village. “Their efforts have been an appreciated endeavor. There isn’t always funding available from tax dollars for these items, so these actions to improve the village are well received.”

Tickets for the Joyful Christmas Tour can be purchased in advance at the Spencer Village Office and Amie’s Cut Loose for $10, or for $15 at any of the locations on the tour after it begins on Dec. 1. The tour is open to anyone age 10 and older and signs will be posted outside of each home to assist tour attendees in identification. The Spencer Woman’s Club asks that those participating in the tour be respectful of both people and property while on the tour.