Open Homes, Open Hearts
By Brenda Kissko
Article previously published in 2018
The Christmas season is a magical time of the year. Hot chocolate steams from mugs, Christmas carols spill out of buildings, and we slow down to celebrate family, friends, and good baking. It’s a time to count blessings and give back to the community. In 1993, members of the Odessa Board of REALTORS saw a need to help local students attend college. That year they organized the first ever Christmas Tour of Homes as a fundraiser to generate scholarships. The event quickly grew in popularity, attracting more than 2,000 people from across the region to Odessa each year to partake in the annual tradition. After eighteen successful years of the Christmas Tour of Homes, the Odessa Board of REALTORS’ Community Development Committee decided to change their holiday fundraiser up a bit and chose other outreach projects like horse-drawn carriage rides. But people kept calling and asking about the Christmas Tour of Homes. So, after a six-year hiatus, the board is excited to bring back this popular annual event this year. “We are so excited that we can provide this wonderful event to our community,” said Amy Rhodes, an Odessa real estate agent and chair of the Community Development Committee for the Odessa Board of REALTORS. “As realtors, we strive to better the community of which we live in and sell in.” This year’s Christmas Tour of Homes will take place on Sunday, December 3, from 1 to 5 p.m. It is a selfguided tour for people to drive their own vehicles from house to house and tour the inside and outside of each home at their leisure. The event is an opportunity to enjoy elaborate adornments and return home with new holiday decorating ideas while supporting local scholarship funds. “Attendees can expect to see estate homes decorated to the hilt for Christmas,” said Rhodes. Since its beginning, the Christmas Tour of Homes has generated more than $200,000 that the Odessa Board of REALTORS has donated to a scholarship fund at Odessa College and an endowment for The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB). Students apply for these scholarships through each college. Each year, scholarships ranging from $250 to $5,000 are awarded to 5 to 7 students, as determined by Odessa College and UTPB. This year’s goal is to raise $25,000 in scholarship funds. It’s evident the scholarships generated by the event are making a big impact on the community and in the lives of Odessa students. The Odessa Board of REALTORS have received several handwritten thank you notes over the years from students who have received the scholarships. Susan Benavides, a past recipient, wrote, “I was given a scholarship for this fall and next spring. I want to say thank you for making school possible.” Just who is this group of people who decided to start the Christmas Tour of Homes to do good in the community? The Odessa Board of REALTORS was established in 1958 with the mission “to support its membership through education to achieve a successful industry with the highest degree of ethics and to protect the individual rights of real estate ownership while providing the highest quality professional service to the members.” There are currently 350 members and 19 people serve on the Community Development Committee that plans this event. Amy Rhodes chairs this committee. She has been a real estate agent since 2003 and has lived in Odessa for more than 25 years. “I joined the board initially for the services of continuing education, MLS, contracts, and because of the REALTORS code of ethics and the reputation of professionalism,” she said. “After becoming a member, I was introduced to all the wonderful things the Odessa Board of REALTORS was doing in our community. There were so many opportunities for me to get involved within the board, and the community outreach committee was a perfect fit for me.” Tickets to attend the Christmas Tour of Homes are $10 and can be purchased at any member Odessa real estate office, online at www.odessarealtors.com, the Odessa Board of REALTORS located at 4708 E. University, and at any participating home the day of the tour. Homes that will be on the tour include Tonjua and Darrel Farris’s home at 58 Estates Drive, Cheryl and Tony Cunningham’s home at 42 Estates Drive, Sarah and Clay Moore’s home at 1 Lamplight (all in the Estates of Shiloh), as well as Carol and Travis Fisher’s home at 401 Bella Vista Circle in Bella Vista Estates. “As a realtor, I sell our city every day and knew getting involved I could also make a difference in our community,” said Rhodes. And it’s evident this group is doing just that. The Christmas Tour of Homes is a Permian Basin holiday tradition to experience with family and friends while helping local students afford a college education. It sparks some magic in the community and continues that West Texas spirit of neighbors opening their homes and their hearts up to one another. For more information, contact Connie Coots at 432-362-8943 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.odessarealtors.com.