News Release Distributed 12/20/07
On Dec. 13, residents returning to St. Bernard Parish enjoyed the first Christmas Tour of Homes since hurricanes devastated the area in 2005.
Carolyn Leperi, an LSU AgCenter agent in St. Bernard Parish, said the tour was started 15 years ago by the St. Bernard chapter of Louisiana Volunteers for Family and Community (LVFC) as a club fundraiser.
She said the LVFCs were once called “Homemaker Clubs.”
Leperi said she is happy to have the tours start back up because all of the money raised from the tour is donated to youth organizations in the parish.
“Before the storm, we would normally have five or six families open up their homes as part of the tour, but this year we only have one,” she said. “Judge Robert Buckley and his wife, Gayle, volunteered to open their home for the tour this year.”
Pecan Grove Plantation, the name of the Buckley’s home in Chalmette, is one of the few homes to sustain less-than-average damage from Hurricane Katrina.
“This house was built around 1800, and it was built to survive floods. The structure and the floors are built with cypress, and we had installed a hurricane-proof roof that will withstand 160 mph winds. And it did just that,” Buckley said.
He said after the storm, they treated the house and left it open for one year as they stayed in a FEMA trailer next door.
Five businesses from the St. Bernard Parish decorated the various rooms throughout the house, Leperi said. She commented that the tour was timely since so many people in the parish are beginning to rebuild.
“In addition to the home tour, we also have a boutique with a parade of prizes, refreshments, and our five clubs are selling homemade items such as breads and cookies,” Leperi said.
Buckley said it took about two weeks to get the house ready for the tour, but the final three days were really intense.
Elizabeth “Gidget” McDougall, tourism director for St. Bernard Parish and co-chair of the home tour, said her home was among the first to be showcased 15 years ago.
“Our biggest year was when the tour was held at Jackson Barracks,” she said. “That year, we donated over $20,000 to parish organizations after the tour.”
Leperi said people in the parish are already volunteering for next year’s tour.
Additional information on upcoming events in St. Bernard Parish is available on their tourism Web site at www.visitstbernard.com.
Contact: Carolyn Leperi at (504) 278-4234 or email@example.com
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org