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Halls are decked for Foster Grandparent Home Tour

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In a bathroom, Jill adorned a tree with her late mother’s pins of various kinds, including one of her mother, Cassie Harris, on a pin from the 1930s.
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A Dachshund theme abounds in the Morris family room, including on the elegant mantel.
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Jill and Mike Morris with their Christmas tree in the New Castle home’s family room. The couple opens up their fully-decorated home for the Foster Grandparent Program Christmas Candlelight Home Tour from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.

By DONNA CRONK - dcronk@thecouriertimes.com

After a few years’ absence, the popular Foster Grandparent Program Christmas Candlelight Home Tour returns from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8 and includes five stops to get folks into the holiday spirit and raise money for the program which pairs seniors with serving the community.

Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased from Foster Grandparents and at several New Castle locations including Every Good Thing, the Interlocal Community Action Program, Sherry’s Flower and Gifts and Weiland’s Flowers.

Featured spots on the tour will be the Art Association of Henry County Gallery, Boyd-Joyner Home, Malone Home, Pierce/Neal Home and the Morris Home.

A sneak peek

Step inside the home of Mike and Jill Morris, 589 South Denny Drive, and be transported into a holiday haven as Jill, who has been an interior designer, always begins decorating the home head-to-toe on Oct. 1. A New Castle native, she and Mike have been married 25 years. He has always enjoyed his wife’s assortment of decorations and helps her get down the 22 (and counting) tubs of decorations each year.

The family room theme is that of the couple’s favorite pets, Dachshunds. They have had them for years and currently have three. While Jill has had a dog in that breed starting at age 19, her husband wasn’t keen on having a dog once they were married. She insisted, though, and said that on the way home from getting Bud, Mike held the pup “and that’s all it took.”

At one time they had five dogs but currently have three, all rescues.

Visitors will marvel at the number and variety of the Dachshund-themed Christmas ornaments and decorations the couple have in this cozy room from throw pillows to table-toppers. The fireplace mantel is hung with lit greens and ornaments with the names of every Dachshund Jill has had.

When asked where she finds such unique decorations, she said, “I hunt. I’m on the computer hunting Dachshund-themed Christmas (items).”

The Christmas tree in this room contains a variety of ornaments collected over the years and a handmade elaborate topper. This tree alone took her four hours to complete.

Jill has a grown daughter, Amber Norrod, and two grandchildren who all reside in New Castle. She is the sister of Lt. General Bruce Harris.

Jill describes the Christmas dishes that reside on overhead shelving in the kitchen as “odds and ends.” 

Other interesting decorations pop up throughout the space including an attractive lit wreath above the sink. A breakfast room off the kitchen likewise has holiday decor.

The first spare bedroom is also decorated, but that’s no surprise as Jill said, “I decorate every room in the house.”

She also collects Santas and you will see a nice grouping of them.

One bath is elaborately festooned with an interesting and sentimental surprise. There is a countertop tree adorned with a collection of pins that belonged to Cassie Harris, Jill’s late mother who died a decade ago at age 93. A photo of a 1930s-era Cassie appears in one pin as it was the style in that era to have a pin with your face on it.

Jill said she’s a bargain hunter and has a number of favorite places to find her decorative seasonal items such as Stein Mart, Wayfair, Big Lots, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and Hobby Lobby.

Another bedroom, claimed by her grandson when he visits, contains twin beds with coordinating Christmas pillows and a red color scheme. The couple’s bedroom is also seasonally decorated and there is much to see wherever one turns throughout the house.

The Morris decorations remain up for the 12 Days of Christmas. Morris had her home on the tour once before many years ago but said that it’s totally different from what it was then. 

Foster Grandparent Executive Director Mary Ellen Brausa said she’s thankful the couple agreed to have their home on the tour.

 “I just feel her (Jill’s) house is a showplace ... I knew it would be just beautiful,” Brausa said. 

Also on tour

In addition to the Morris Home, be sure to visit the other New Castle tour attractions:

n Malone Home: The Wayne and Mary Malone home at 603 Kovacs Drive. Built in 1993, the home is a beautiful example of modern-day craftsmanship. Featured are cove moldings, a bow window, ceramic baths and a brick fireplace. Tastefully decorated in the traditional style in shades of brown, teal and beige, each room contains individual Christmas decorations.

The family room contains a Jim Shore Snowman theme. Collections include Hallmark ornaments, Longaberger baskets and Precious Moments as well as others. 

n Pierce / Neal Home: Tim and Shari Neal, along with Shari’s mother, Mary Pierce, live in this mid-century ranch home in Raintree Heights at 1935 Wuthering Drive. Expect traditional decor with a hint of farmhouse elegance. The couple has collected vintage Christmas decorations for decades. Their vintage light collection includes bubble lights and delicate Christmas ornaments.

Count off the more than 20 Christmas trees in the home. The feature tree is a 1960s era aluminum variety.

n Boyd/Joyner Home: The Foster Grandparent Program is partnering with the Henry County Historical Society to present the Boyd-Joyner Home as part of the tour at 602 S. 14th St. The lower level will be open for viewing and here, refreshments will be served and restroom facilities available.

The historical society acquired the home in 2004 and under the direction of architect Kato Smith and grants from various entities, restoration was under way.

Aluminum siding was removed and replaced with painted wood; new wiring, plumbing and ceilings were added. The foyer and front parlor were restored to their 1903 appearance. Historic paper covers foyer and parlor walls. The house was piped for gas lighting and some period light fixtures acquired for the home are a combination of gas/electric.

n Art Association of Henry County Gallery, 218 S. 15th St. The Art Center is on the site of the oldest retail establishment in Henry County, The Jennings & Sons Lumber Co. Note the Arts Park on the complex. Check out the permanent collection of donated works by local artists. The Artistry Annex Gift Shop will be open during the tour where tour-goers can purchase affordable local original art. For more, visit www.henrycountyarts.org/about-us/.