Each December, a handful of Akron’s most elegant homes are transformed by the holiday spirit.
This year, the beloved annual event returns December 4, granting ticket holders access to some of the city’s most unique homes, boasting enormous trees bright with tinsel; banisters draped with giant bulbs and boughs of pine; hearths flanked by life size nutcrackers, wreaths and blooming poinsettias; and an unmatchable spirit of giving across each doorstep.
While the event is certainly a joyous one, Stephannie Garrett — new Sugar Plum committee co-chair and GCEF Advisory Board chair — said the organization’s signature fundraising event is about far more than just holiday cheer and twinkling string lights.
Because proceeds from the Sugar Plum Tour are distributed back into the community in the form of grants to local nonprofit organizations, purchasing a ticket or becoming an event sponsor helps support LGBTQ+ initiatives and programming throughout Greater Akron all year long.
“It’s a really fun event, but it really does impact what we do from a grantmaking standpoint,” Garrett said. “So just know that your $35 ticket is really helping LGBTQ+ people in Greater Akron.”
Supporting LGBTQ+ communities
In 2001, a small group of LGBTQ+ people living in the Akron area established the Gay Community Endowment Fund as a way to boost funding for local LGBTQ+ organizations and initiatives.
Today the organization has dispersed nearly $700,000 in community grants to help fight harmful phobias, support and expand access to LGBTQ+ mental health resources, and eliminate homelessness and housing instability among LGBTQ+ youth.
Past grant recipients include Akron Children’s Hospital Center for Gender Affirming Medicine, along with Camp Lilac — a summer camp in Northeast Ohio designed exclusively for queer and transgender youth — and Vantage Aging, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ seniors in meeting their unique needs.
GCEF has also awarded grants to LGBTQ+ arts and culture initiatives to empower, connect and educate LGBTQ+ people and their allies — something Garrett thinks is particularly important.
“We’ve supported the Millennial Theatre Project, which I think is really cool,” she said. “Because something might not seem LGBTQ+, but it’s about how [the Millennial Theatre Project]is creating a safe, comfortable environment where LGBTQ+ people can come into their own and express themselves.”
Garrett said it’s precisely that shift in culture she and other GCEF Advisory Board members plan to carry into the future when selecting next year’s grant and scholarship recipients.
‘We’re pretty excited’
The 2022 Sugar Plum Tour is filled with historic homes — including a 1948 Georgian Colonial, a Cotswold Tudor in Fairlawn Heights, and a 1922 Prairie-style Highland Square bungalow inspired by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The live Sugar Plum Tour takes place on December 4 and individual tickets are priced at $35. There is also a virtual tour option available on December 10 and 11, which includes two bonus houses not featured on the live tour and also costs $35. Individuals can get one of each ticket for a total of $60.
“Because we’re asking private homeowners to open up their homes, it’s not always feasible to get everything accessible,” Garrett said. “But with the virtual tour, people can still participate. We’ve had people from other states and other countries enjoy the tour that way.”
Businesses, organizations or individuals that want to contribute beyond the price of a ticket can also become sponsors at one of five different sponsorship levels, ranging from $500 to more than $5,000.
After the tour has concluded, sponsors are invited to a private holiday afterparty, which will take place at the Highland Universal Gatheringspot — a newly redeveloped community and arts and culture center inside the former Temple Israel.
“We’re actually going to be the first event there,” Garrett said. “We have a whole crew of folks. We’re pretty excited about that.”
For Garrett — who usually attends a brunch with friends before enjoying the tour together — the holiday joy Sugar Plum brings each year is infectious, even when she’s busy organizing the event herself.
“It’s being in the homes, and these homeowners that are so gracious to do this and decorate so precisely. It’s those added touches that bring the holiday spirit,” Garrett said. “Your ticket is helping LGBTQ+ people, and I think it’s a really fun way to kick off the holiday season.” 🔥
- To purchase tickets for the 2022 Sugar Plum Tour of Holiday Homes, click here.
- To become a 2022 Sugar Plum Tour sponsor, click here.
- To learn more about the Gay Community Endowment Fund and view a full list of grant recipients, click here.
- To learn more about how to apply for a grant from the Gay Community Endowment Fund, click here.
This story was made possible through the support of the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation.