This 5,260 sq. ft. Mediterranean style home will be shown at the Orange Park Christmas Tour of Homes on Dec. 4 and 5

By Christina Leach Phillips

Correspondent, CLAY TODAY 

ORANGE PARK — Jo Knott wants to start a new holiday tradition in Clay County.

As the director of the first annual Orange Park Christmas Tour of Homes fundraiser, Knott said, “We hope to start a new family tradition of kicking off the Christmas season in our community that is new and different and gets everybody in the Christmas spirit.”

The event, which will be held Dec. 4 and 5 at the Orange Park Country Club and Loch Rane Communities, will feature 10 festively decorated homes, a silent auction, refreshments, and drawings for three getaway weekends.

“We have homes that will put up 6 and 7 trees, special displays, and live Christmas music inside their homes with singers and musicians,” Knott said.

The Orange Park Christmas Tour of Homes is a fundraiser for BASCA, Inc., which is a non-profit organization that provides services and programs for people with developmental disabilities.

“We do the group homes and disabled programs for developmentally delayed in NE Florida,” said Knott. “We have been doing it for 16 years.”

Knott and her husband, Tony, are co-founders of BASCA as well as the DayStar Centers at the Barco-Newton YMCA and the Bob Dye-Clay YMCA.  Jo Knott said their daughter, Rhonda, 34, who was born with a severe brain injury, is their inspiration in starting programs and raising funds to help serve the needs of disabled persons.

She said that two of the homeowners in the Christmas Tour of Homes also have children with disabilities. “That’s why parents get involved because we want to leave a legacy for our children after we are gone.”

Knott, an interior designer, said she is working with the 10 homeowners by offering decorating suggestions, but the homeowners are responsible for their own decorations.  “Each home will decorate in their family traditions,” she said. 

The homeowners will have some help from area businesses.  A local florist will put flowers in all the homes, and each home will have a local business sponsor.

A free ”park and ride” van service to and from the gated communities will be available from the Kmart parking lot at Blanding Blvd. and Kingsley Ave., and each driveway will have a drop-off/pick-up bench with business sponsors’ names. “These wonderful businesses have partnered with us, and we want to advertise them,” Knott said.

The tours run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on both days, and tickets are $10 per person with group discounts for 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased in advance from several area locations as well as at a trailer at the Kmart parking lot on event days.

“Anybody who buys a ticket will be in a drawing, and you have three chances on every ticket to win something,” she said.

Knott said she is expecting more than 1,000 people at the two-day event. “There are 1,100 people who live here in our country club and Loch Rane, and we have a few houses that people are going to want to see, and that’s not even counting the people who live outside our gate,” she said. 

The Orange Park Christmas Tour of Homes is a five-year event, and in the future, Knott said it will be held at other Clay County neighborhoods such as Pace Island and Eagle Harbor. “We are keeping it all in one location where it is easier to get around,” she said.

There are 15 women on the Tour of Homes committee who Knott says have worked many hours since May to make it a “well organized and beautiful” event for residents.

She said, “Pick up a gift or two at our silent auction and hopefully win a weekend for yourself somewhere at one of the getaways and raise funds for BASCA that will be used to develop our programs for special needs people.”

For more information on the Christmas Tour of Homes, go online to www.OPChristmasTour.com and for information on BASCA, visit www.bascainc.org

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