Pilot Club

by Blake Schnitker

On Sunday, December 6, the Pilot Club of Jacksonville welcomes everyone to come out for the annual Holiday Home Tour, where participants will be invited into five of the city’s most decorative homes. The 2015 Holiday Home Tour marks the 32nd consecutive year that Jacksonville’s Pilot Club has sponsored the event, which, along with their “Dancing with the Stars” program, stands as one of the clubs’ largest annual fundraisers. As an organization geared towards developing the community and providing services, the Pilot Club of Jacksonville donates all of the home tour profits back into the community, to various youth programs, charitable foundations and other developmental projects.

“We’ve got quite a few major projects that we fund every year, and the money from the tour go towards supporting those projects,” said Caron Yates, a Pilot Club chairperson for the past six years. “All of the proceeds stay local, and if we have money left over, we will donate that to other organizations aimed at helping people.”

Yates has been a member of the Pilot Club for more than a decade now, and as it turns out, her reason for joining the group was prompted by a promise she’d made to one of her closest friends.

“I had breast cancer in 2000, and it was at that time that Mia Ware and I met through our involvement with Relay for Life,” Yates said of Ware, who passed away in 2004 from complications with breast cancer. “So her and I bonded and, before her passing, I would stay with her during the day and spend time with her. One day, she looked up at me and smiled and said, ‘I have a favor to ask of you,’ and I said, ‘Sure, anything,’ and then she asked, ‘Would you join the Pilot Club and go to be with my mom?’ – that’s what her and her mom had done together – and she said, ‘I’d like you to take my place.’”

Since joining the Pilot Club back in the early 2000s, Yates has become increasingly involved with the groups’ activities and projects. When asked about the Holiday Home Tour, Yates said that it was an event that the Pilot Club had been coordinating long before she arrived, but she sees it as a great way for people to be involved in helping the community.

Unlike in years past, when the Holiday Home Tour has been a two-day event, this year’s tour will take place over just one day. Attendees will begin their tour at 1 p.m., and will travel to five houses around Jacksonville. The first stop will be the home of Brad and Sarah Cors at #1 Cardinal Drive. Next, visitors will move to #1 Laura Place, home of Larry and Becky Werries, followed by 26 Sunset Drive, where Dick and Donna Cody reside. The fourth stop on the tour will be at the home of Tom and Sherry Hopkin at 1009 West State Street. Rounding out the tour, participants will get to walk through the historic home of former Illinois Governor, Joseph Duncan, otherwise known as Governor Duncan’s Mansion, which sits in Duncan Park, at #4 Duncan Place.

“It’s different houses every year, and it does entail quite a bit of work, but most people that are into decorating really enjoy it,” Yates said. “This is the first year we have (Governor Duncan’s Mansion) so we’re really excited about that, and if we have other houses that might have some history to it, I encourage the owner to write that down for us and maybe print it off so we either have it displayed or passed around. One of the houses this year, the one on State Street, is going to be sponsored by Aire Serv, and they’re going to have hot chocolate at the front door and actually have a lady baking cookies in the kitchen.”

The Holiday Home Tour will run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and participants are welcome at any time to stop by Knollwood Retirement Village for a cup of tea. Tickets for this year’s event are $15 in advance, $17 dollars at the door, and may be purchased at County Market, Family Gardens, or from any Pilot Club member. In the past, organizations such as the Women’s Crisis Center, Share the Love, Spirit of Faith Soup Kitchen, Jacksonville Food Bank, Campers for the Imagine Foundation and the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Concert, have been recipients of the home tour profits.

“The Pilot Club, it’s just a wonderful organization,” Yates said of the club. “Most all of the members are businesswomen and men, and there’s just lots of different talents and different personalities that do a whole lot of good for Jacksonville.”

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