Residents will have the chance to peer into some neighbors’ homes this weekend during the 25th annual Holiday Home Tour, sponsored by the Westchester Mental Health Guild. The Tour begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, November 4th, with a reception

scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. at the YMCA Annex, 8020 Alverstone Ave., Westchester. Tickets are $25 and are required for admission to the homes and reception. Proceeds will benefit the Airport Marina Counseling Service.

Five homes have been decorated with a holiday theme, and will be available for self-guided tours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each residence offers various features, says Joan Conca, chair of the Holiday Home Tour. From a four-story, endless-view home on the hillside of Playa del Rey, to each of the four Westchester houses, these are amazing homes, Conca says.

The brainchild of the late Shirley Pfeil, the Holiday Home Tour began 25 years ago as a way to raise money for the Airport Marina Counseling Service. The reception will include a memorial for Pfeil, who died this year.

“The idea was for the ladies of the Guild to open their homes to admission,” says Doris Uncapher, ten-time chair of the Holiday Home Tour. “It was a way for the Guild to raise money and look into each others’ houses,” Conca quipped.

The Westchester Mental Health Guild began with officers sponsoring houses and it continues with that tradition, as well as having Realtor-sponsored houses on the tour. Choosing the homes, though, can be difficult.

Most of the houses were found through members of the Guild, although one homeowner contacted the Guild to be featured in the year’s tour.

“Bernice and I drove through the neighborhoods to find homes, but it’s very hard to get them through ‘cold-calling’Ö I got one through a conversation at a dinner party,” Conca says.

Through the years, the event program has grown from a single-page folded pamphlet with a handful of advertisements bordering a map of the tour to a glossy 70-page booklet with summaries of the homes and paid announcements from community sponsors.

Early tour tickets were $7, gradually increasing over the years to the current $25.

“Traditionally, the expense ratio is ten to 15 percent of the gross, which is amazing, that we’ve been able to keep spending so low,” Conca says. “We also receive funding from sponsors. [County Supervisor Don] Knabe gave $2,000 this year and has always been very generous in the past,” says Bernice Blinder, co-chair of the Holiday Home Tour.

Last year the combined ticket sales and ad revenue amounted to

$41,000, which went to the Airport Marina Counseling Service. It was the largest amount raised since the tour’s inception, Conca and Uncapher say.

The Westchester Mental Health Guild and the Airport Marina Counseling Service are non-profit sister organizations that were incorporated at the same time, with the Guild serving as the fundraiser.

The Guild opened the Guilded Cage gift shop 33 years ago, which has raised more than $400,000 for the counseling service.

“The Guilded Cage is totally run by about 50 volunteers, six days a week, and features all new and some handmade goods,” says Blinder, who is also the jewelry buyer and “plant lady.”

“[The Guild] had an event last year called ‘Go to Pot,’ where we propagated succulents for a year in my backyard, and people paid to buy a pot and plant,” Conca says.

Conca is also quick to point out the Garden Tour, which is in its fourth year and was started by Uncapher. The Garden Tour is in May and has become one of the two major events the Guild hosts.

Most of the 200 members of the Westchester Mental Health Guild have served an important role in each of the events and organizations the Guild supports, in addition to paying yearly dues.

“The Guild people are totally selfless and totally dedicated” to raising money for the Airport Marina Counseling Service, Conca says.

The Airport Marina Counseling Service is a private, non-profit, outpatient mental health clinic that has been serving the greater Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) area since 1961.

“Airport Marina has a two-fold mission: to provide affordable mental health services to individuals, children, and families; and also provide training for prelicensed physicians and therapists,” says Kathleen O’Leary Lefferman, executive director of Airport Marina Counseling Service.

“They provide reasonable mental health services and won’t turn anyone away,” Conca says.

“Many clients are low-income and do not have insurance,” Lefferman says. “We do have fees but services are subsidized through the activities of the Guild.”

With patients served within a 20-mile radius, Airport Marina is active in receiving grants, such as from the Hannon Foundation, United Way, and more recently the California Community Foundation, Lefferman says.

“Airport Marina receives no government support and relies on grants and the Guild to raise money,” Conca says.

“We raise the balance of our funds through gifts from individual community members, businesses, foundations, and corporations, and also have our own events, such as a spring tribute we had for Mary Ellen Cassman, and Jet-to-Jetty,” Lefferman says.

“Besides the Guild, we do have community places that support us, such as Gateway to LA and the local Rotary clubs; Airport Marina serves the community and relies on the community for support,” Lefferman says.

Airport Marina provides individual therapy, marriage and family counseling, special groups such as parenting classes, men and women support groups, school- and club-based counseling, Lefferman says.

“We provide mental health counseling for the Healthy Start program in Westchester High School and have a family support center conducted at the Boys and Girls Club.

“We would like to be even more available to the community for workshops and presentations, and are very responsive to the needs of the community from the greater LAX area to the South Bay and Westside,” Lefferman says.

The Westchester Mental Health Guild is key in the operation of the Airport Marina Counseling Service and has helped many clients receive affordable services.

“We are so impressed with these tireless volunteers, dedicated people who have worked to make mental health services available and accessible and who have, early on, recognized the need for community-based mental health services,” Lefferman says.

“We are a small, community-based organization and we do a lot of work to seek the community’s support so we can provide affordable counseling. We welcome calls inquiring about the clinic, and are delighted and grateful to the Guild for sponsoring the Holiday Home Tour.”

Information about the Holiday Holiday Home Tour and the Westchester Mental Health Guild, (310) 641-7850. Information about Airport Marina Counseling Service, (310) 670-1410.

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