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By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The Starkville Civic League, the Starkville Town and Country Garden Club and the Starkville Library have joined forces to offer an afternoon of holiday cheer today beginning at 2 p.m.
The Starkville Civic Leagueâs Annual Christmas Tour of Homes started in 2004Â when Edythe McArthur was president, Starkville Civic League Publicity Chair Lynda Forbus said.Â
âChairman of the first Christmas tour in 2004Â was Moderia Petty, and she remained chairman through 2010,â Forbus said. âPeggy Buckley is chairman this year. In the beginning, the tour was at night and then it was moved to Sunday afternoon.â
Forbus said this yearâs tour features the homes of four gracious Starkville families: Mark and Rhoda Keenum, Mark and Carol Lehman, Scotty and Nina Wofford, and Floyd and Sheila Johnson. The tour of homes begins at 2 p.m. and goes until 5 p.m. Tickets can still be purchased today at the Starkville Library.
âYou can go to any or all four houses between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.,â Forbus said. âEach house on the tour will have a family member, friend or civic league member in each room informing visitors of any family history or special pieces of interest each room possesses.â
The Starkville Town and Country Garden club has decorated the Starkville Library with a beautiful Christmas tree and poinsettias. Refreshments will be provided by the Civic League and the Palmer Home Childrenâs Choir is providing the entertainment.
The choir, under the direction of Denise Wright, features Palmer Home children currently ages 5 through 11.
âThe Starkville Town and Country Garden Club have supported the Palmer Home for Children for quite some time,â Wright said. âThey purchase Poinsettias that are grown in the Palmer Home greenhouses, and they also give donations to the Palmer Home. They have such a heart for the children of Palmer Home, so we were absolutely delighted and honored when we were asked to participate in this event.â
Wright said the Palmer Home children love Christmas, just as any other child does, and she believes this says a lot about the character of the children there.
âThey are extremely excited about any and all events that have to do with celebrating the season,â Wright said. âThese sweet children bring the spirit of Christmas with them every time they sing for one of these events. And, the best part is that they are so excited, and their excitement is quite contagious. The Christmas joy spreads quickly and seems to brighten the hearts of everyone who listens as they sing.â
Although refreshments will be available at the library any time between 2-5 p.m., the Palmer Home Childrenâs Choir is singing at 2 p.m. and the program should last about half an hour. Wright said all types of music are represented.
âThey will sing a variety of Christmas songs,â Wright said. âSome sacred songs to celebrate our Christian heritage and some secular songs that are sure to bring joy and laughter during this special Christmas season.â
Vicki Katz of Starkville said the city has benefitted so much from the contributions of the Civic League.Â
âI have been involved in the Civic Leagueâs Holiday Tour of Homes both as a docent and as a host home owner and it is the perfect way to kick off the holidays and get into the spirit of Christmas,â Katz said.
Civic club member and pastÂ Co-Chair of the Starkville Civic League Fund-Raising Committee Genevieve Swartzberg said the event has been an important fundraiser for the club for years and it is grateful for the community support.
âHomeowners participating have beenÂ very willing to open their homes for this community project,â Swartzberg said. âEach homeowner decorated their home so beautifully depicting their own traditions of Christmas.â
Starkville Civic League President Charlotte Smith said the funds raised from the tour of homes go to help fund a $1,500 scholarship for a high school student graduating from any high school in Oktibbeha County thatÂ will beÂ attending a Mississippi university or community college. Smith said the club also uses some of the proceeds to donate for community use.Â
âOur donations have helped to fund the downtown clock andÂ Christmas banners,â Smith said. âWe also make a donation to one Kindergarten class a year for school supplies.â
Smith said various other organizations have benefited from the civic clubâs contributions.Â
âThis year we have pledged $4,000Â to help withÂ beautifyingÂ the buildings in downtown Starkville with new lighting,â Smith said. âWe invite all to view the four lovely homes decorated for Christmas and help us make a difference in our community.â
Rhonda Keenum said their house has no particular theme, but said she hopes to introduce the community to the talented faculty, staff and students at The University Florist and in the MSU Floral Management Program. The Keenumâs decorations were created and installed as a class project. The homeâs decorations are a mix of student ideas and Keenum heirlooms. Â
Visitors to the Keenumsâ home will be greeted by members of the MSU Maroon VIP Program, and are encouraged to stroll the courtyard and Christmas gazebo, maintained to perfection by Rob Rice and John Copeland.Â
âFor over 20 years Mark and I were on the road during the holidays â traveling from our home in Washington. D.C. to my familyâs home in Booneville and his familyâs home in the Delta,â Rhonda Keenum said. âThen our 21st Christmas together as husband and wife, we were blessed to be called parents of then 3 month old triplets. Our 23rd Christmas together we were parents of 15 month old triplets and a 7-month-old baby. Our 25th Christmas together we were packing our home in Alexandria, Va., preparing for our move to Starkville, and our 26th Christmas together, we, as a family spent our first Christmas here at Mississippi State.â
Rhonda Keenum said she knows how much her kids love the ornaments because she often finds them missing from the family tree and hanging on each of the childrenâs trees in their bedrooms.