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Nan Sterman, of the KPBS show “A Growing Passion,” greets guests on the Holiday Homes Tour in a waterwise garden she designed. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
Community Vista

32nd annual Holiday Homes Tour raises money for programs

For more than three decades, the Vista Community Clinic annual Holiday Homes Tour has inspired holiday awe among ticketholders as well as little decorating inspiration along the way. On Dec. 2, more than 300 ticketholders experienced the yearly tradition. 

Proceeds from the holiday event solely go back to the Vista Community Clinic’s pediatric programs.

According to Chief Development Officer Betsy Heightman, the 32nd annual Holiday Homes Tour is one of the longest standing events in San Diego County. 

“The day is packed with excitement, holiday ideas and holiday shopping,” Heightman said. “This year we have as always four homes plus the historic Rancho Buena Vista Adobe. For 32 years, we have never repeated a home.”

Participants enjoyed the day exploring parts of Vista that they never knew existed. While taking in the beauty of the homes, people learn more about the city of Vista and beyond. 

Heightman said through the years they have expanded the tour to include a Holiday Bazaar with more than 20 artisans who give back a percentage of their proceeds to the Vista Community Clinic. Shoppers gathered at the parking lot of the nonprofit Together We Grow, and after buying some must-have holiday items, took a shuttle to one of the holiday homes. 

The other three homes were accessible by personal vehicles. 

Social service agencies conducted a couple of the home tours, such as a home built for U.S. Marine Corps veteran Staff Sgt. Brandon Dodson. Severely injured by an improvised explosive device in the line of duty in 2014 on his fifth deployment, Dodson and his wife, Jasmine, and their son moved into their “specially adapted” home in 2018. The Gary Sinise Foundation built the home to assist Dodson, whose legs were both amputated above the knees.   

“This has been a great day,” Dodson said. “I’m in my element talking with people — I just love it.” 

The TERI Residential Program built another residence in the Bressi Ranch area of Carlsbad. 

“This particular home has five young men living in it with a caregiver,” Heightman said. She added that the men are clients of TERI Inc., and many of them have special needs that this home can accommodate. “And it’s a magnificent home that was decorated for the holidays.

Heightman said the Vista Community Clinic partners with an amazing group of interior designers who volunteered their time for an entire week to decorate these homes.

“They’ve been working on this project since September and meeting with the homeowners as to what they like,” she said. “We have over 100 volunteers on event day to pull this off — each home has a home coordinator, and they do a great job of making sure there’s enough volunteers. This is a wonderful volunteer-driven event.”

One Vista home on the tour featured a viewing of the interior as well the backyard by designed by Nan Sterman of the KPBS show, “A Growing Passion.” Sterman was on hand for book signings for her newest work, “Hot Color, Dry Garden.”

“I’m really pleased with how this garden has turned out,” Sterman said. “It really exemplifies my philosophy of color-filled waterwise gardening, and there’s lots of really interesting spaces in this garden. It’s a big mixture of plants — here we are in December, and we have a year-round garden.”

Heightman said the annual Holiday Homes Tour is a unique day where guests spend time touring gorgeous holiday décor, think about new decorating ideas, get some holiday shopping done and have lunch with their family and friends.  

“But really, what makes it so successful is the volunteers that we have, and our committee literally begins working on the tour beginning in February. For the 2019 tour, we will begin meeting again in February to talk about that tour.”  

The Vista Community Clinic was founded in 1972. Heightman describes the North County nonprofit as a magnificent one which now serves the communities of Lake Elsinore and Riverside County and La Habra in Orange County. 

“So, because the need continues to grow, we realize this, and through the vision of our CEO Fernando Sañudo we continue to grow in those areas,” she said. “The funds for this tour benefit the pediatric department in the pediatric area at our main clinic site in Vista. A couple of years ago we did a total remodel to make it child- and literacy-friendly.”