Volunteers Cat and Nancy Wilson and Tina Beth Parker will greet guests at a tour home on Tokalon during the 2014 event: Photo by Jacque Manaugh

Volunteers Cat and Nancy Wilson and Tina Beth Parker will greet guests at a tour home on Tokalon during the 2014 event: Photo by Jacque Manaugh

It takes more than 400 volunteers to make the Lakewood Home Festival happen every year

Every November people flock to Lakewood from all over Dallas, eager to tour half a dozen meticulously selected and expertly prepared houses during the Lakewood Home Festival weekend.

For 38 years, the festival, which is hosted by the Lakewood Early Childhood PTA (LECPTA), has continued to grow and evolve. It brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars anually, which directly benefits neighborhood schools: Lakewood Elementary School, J.L. Long Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School. Last year’s home festival alone raised more than $140,000.

Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Lakewood Home Festival is a holiday staple for many neighbors. But for the casual tour-taker, it’s easy to forget — or to fail to recognize at all — the painstaking preparation that goes into making the festival happen every fall.

From brainstorming and organization to setup, supervision and cleanup, it takes more than 400 volunteers months of worry and hard work. Not to mention the time and money homeowners put into sprucing up their homes for the big day.

But despite the sweat and tears, neighbors keep finding the will to volunteer their valuable time. So who are these people, and what keeps them hanging on?

Three is company

The house at 6957 Tokalon is a classic 1948 Colonial Revival limestone home nestled on a large lot.

The family that lives there includes three boys, so functionality is key, but the home also exudes beauty with its striking balance between classic and new age modern.

Inside, French doors usher guests from the dining room into the family room and give them a peek at the pool in the backyard. The kitchen captures the sunlight with marble countertops, gold fixtures and custom white cabinetry.

During the weekend of Nov. 15 and 16, when Dallasites flock to the house by the dozens, neighbor Nancy Wilson will be there, along with her mother and daughter, bustling about to ensure the safety of the home and the enjoyment of the guests passing through.

Wilson is the home tour captain for the house on Tokalon, which means it’s her job to supervise the location. Although she volunteered as a home tour captain in the ‘90s, she’s looking forward to this time around because she’ll have family members by her side.

When she was asked to be a home tour captain in September, the board asked if she could find another volunteer as well. Wilson asked her mother, Nina Beth Parker, if she’d lend a hand. Wilson’s daughter, Cat Wilson, will be there, too.

“This time I’m super excited about it because I get to share it with my mom and my daughter in a capacity that’s really important to me,” Wilson says.

Wilson joined the LECPTA in ’96 when her son was born, and later served on the board for several years.

One of the most stressful things she’s done is show her own home on the Lakewood Home Festival, she says.

“It costs a lot of money to get your house ready for home tour,” Wilson insists. “Plus the homeowners have to vacate their homes all weekend. If they commit in July or so, it’s full steam ahead until November.”

But because she’s been on the other end, she takes her responsibility as home tour captain very seriously.

Her mom is looking forward to the festival for a different reason. Parker was a teacher in Dallas ISD for more than 10 years after she moved to the M Streets in 1993.

“Education is a big passion for her,” Wilson says.

Like mother like daughter

Neighbor Courtney Bock Mathews, who’s this year’s home captain coordinator, remembers when her mother volunteered with the Lakewood Home Festival.

Mathews grew up in the Lakewood area and went to Lakewood Elementary. After moving away for a bit, she moved back to Lakewood with her son, who attends Lakewood Elementary.

“My house in Lakewood is the only house I remember,” Mathews says.

Mathews is an old hand with the home tour routine after becoming an LECPTA board member several years ago. She’s taken on many roles. Her favorite was working with the market, which is what her mom used to do as well.

The tour has seen many changes since Mathews’ mom, Cyndi Bock, began volunteering in 1979.

At the time, there were probably only about 20 people on the board. Now there are more than 70 people on the board and hundreds of volunteers.

Bock also helped switch the market over to a computerized system, from all-paper to the current home tour technology.

“Now it’s all done via computer, email, text,” Mathews says. “We have a web master now, which we didn’t have before.”

Mathews started as the market co-chair, a position she held for two years. She served as secretary for two years, vice president one year and the historian. Each job is time consuming in its own way, she says.

“I think my favorite part has been being able to explore so many different sides, the inner workings, of the home tour,” Mathews says. “The energy is exhilarating as everything kicks into gear.”

The Lakewood Home Festival is such a big part of Mathews’ year, that she considers the worst part of the tour to be the “post home tour low.”

Mathews’ began volunteering as a way to meet other young moms in the area and has made many friends through the annual event. The community aspect and the overall anticipation and energy of the event is what keeps her coming back each year.

“It’s hard to leave,” she says.

Reflecting on home tours past

The house at 6820 Avalon is a 1937 Charles Dilbeck house of dreams.

Christened the Crabapple Cottage, the family has lovingly repaired, upgraded and expanded upon Dilbeck’s trademark French farmhouse design ideas.

And that’s where you’ll find neighbor Mason Ellis on the weekend of the home tour.

Ellis originally joined the LECPTA when her son, Drew, was born. At the time she was just a member, but then she started volunteering with the Lakewood Home Festival 10 years ago, and she’s been a home tour captain every year since.

“The great thing about captaining a house is that you don’t do any of the background work. You just show up and take care of the homeowner’s house,” she says. “It’s really fun.”

But some of Ellis’s stories of her home tour experiences will make you wonder if it’s really “the easy job.”

It’s the captain’s job to arrive early in order to tape the stairs and ribbon off areas that are off limits, but guests don’t always respect those limitations.

“I had to ask a teacher to come out of the laundry room,” Ellis remembers. “She had gone past the ribbon blocking it off. She’d just gone in and was taking a phone call. The people walking by didn’t feel comfortable looking in there because there was a lady in there talking on the phone.”

Another year there was a “man cave” full of old World War II memorabilia from the homeowner’s grandfather, which included a swastika.

“People were super offended,” Ellis explains. “So we had to call the homeowner and ask if we could take it down.”

One Sunday, after the home tour was over, Ellis closed the front door and disassembled the table out front. Then while she was walking around the home, taking everything down and cleaning up, some people wandered inside and began doing a self-guided tour.

“The homeowners came across them and then came and found me and were like, ‘There’s someone else in here.’ They were really upset,” Ellis says. “I should’ve stayed outside a little longer or locked the door.”

And there are always issues with the blue booties that guests have to wear while inside the home. Some people want to bypass the booties by asking if they can simply take off their shoes, so Ellis has to explain why, for sanitary reasons, that isn’t allowed.

“And it’s also a safety issue because they have a rough bottom so you won’t slip on hardwood floor stairs,” she says.

Some people will try to walk from house to house with booties on, which defeats the entire purpose of the booties, Ellis says. “It seems like the volunteers are always having to take care of the booties.”

But the hassle is well worth it for the amount of money the Lakewood Home Festival raises every year, she saya. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun.

“To get to meet all the great volunteers and see friends and other moms you haven’t seen in a while,” Ellis explains, “it’s a great community project.”

Speaking of …

6702 Anita: Photo by Jacque Manaugh

6702 Anita: Photo by Jacque Manaugh

The home at 6702 Anita is a classic American family home that draws inspiration from New England cottage architecture and low country southern style.

The homeowners custom designed the home and built it in 2012.

On tour day, neighbors can expect to see volunteers buzzing about the property on Anita, and all of them will have something in common — the dual language program at Lakewood Elementary.

All the volunteers are from the Dual Language Parent Group, says Nancy Rodriguez, the home tour captain for the house on Anita.

There are 90 families involved in the dual language program at Lakewood Elementary. It’s a tight-knit group because the children stay together from kindergarten through fifth-grade, Rodriguez explains. Rodriguez’s son, Eric Jacobs is a first-grader at Lakewood Elementary this year and a part of the Dual Language program.

“We came up with the idea last year that it would be really good idea if we could kind of adopt a house, help that house out and staff it with volunteers,” Rodriguez says.

The LECPTA assigned the house on Anita to the Dual Language Parent Group, and Rodriguez was thrilled when she saw the picture and realized she recognized the home.

“I drive by it all the time, and I always think, ‘That is such a cute house.’ I love the red door,” Rodriguez says. “It’s a house I’ve always admired.”

As captain, it has been Rodriguez’s job to ensure that there are enough volunteers from the parent group to staff the home. There are shifts available throughout the weekend with probably 50 or so slots to fill.

“We want to help the school,” she says. “If it weren’t for the school, we wouldn’t have this program. We’re so appreciative, so we want to help the school as much as possible.”

How to go

There are six homes on the 38th Lakewood Home Festival, each with their own unique design, style and architecture.

The 38th Annual Lakewood Home Festival kicks off with the Pearls & Prohibition speakeasy-themed auction party, presented by Dave Perry-Miller & Associates, from 7 p.m.-midnight at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross. The auction party is $100 before Nov. 7, $125 after Nov. 7, and $150 at the door (if not already sold out). The auction party ticket includes an all-weekend pass with entry to the home tour, candlelight tour, and market/café.

The home tour, presented by Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, and the Holiday Market & Café, sponsored by Ebby Lakewood, take place Saturday Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-5p.m., and Sunday Nov. 16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The Saturday/Sunday ticket, which allows visitors to tour the homes one or both days, is $15.

The market is located inside Lakewood Elementary School, 3000 Hillbrook Street. The café features food trucks and live music behind the school on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. The Holiday Market & Café is included in the price, or can be accessed for $5 without a home tour ticket.

The candlelight tour of homes, sponsored by Dave Perry-Miller & Associates, will take place Saturday evening, 6-8 p.m. During the candlelight tour guests can meet the homeowners and socialize in the homes over a glass of wine. The Saturday evening candlelight -tour is $25.

For more information, go to lakewoodhomefestival.com

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.