Imagine walking into a home decorated with white winter fantasies that surpass all your Christmas dreams and would make Santa Claus blush with envy. Take a step back – you’re in a home in Bakersfield.

This is Chez Noel, a charity home tour organized by Assistance League Bakersfield. The fundraiser generates money for families and children’s programs created by Assistance League.

Ruth Ann Montgomery, the first chapter president of Assistance League Bakersfield, began Operation School Bell, which is directly funded by ticket sales from Chez Noel, now in its 29th year.

Sandy Spray, marketing communications chair has been with the Assistance League for eight years. Spray shared memories over the years that moved her. “We’ve had several occasions where the school bus driver said that they were dressed here as a child; that hits home,” she said. “The first year, I gave a little boy a Ziplock bag with a toothbrush and comb. He said, ‘A toothbrush just for me?’ That was a tear-jerker.”

During Operation School Bell, children write their names on bags and fill them with clothes in September at Bargain Box Thrift Store for uniform clothes. For street clothes, they are taken in school buses to local Targets and Burlington Coat Factories.

“We clothe about 3,600 children per year,” said a prideful Spray.

Assistance League Bakersfield has been helping families and children since November 1956.

The holiday home tour has been a local holiday tradition. Chez Noel will take place Friday, Dec. 7-8, which will begin with shopping 10 a.m. at the Bargain Box at 1924 Q St. Following coffee courtesy of Starbucks and snacks is a three-home self-guided tour full of Christmas wonders. Spray has seen her share of homes.

“Some people have hired florists or decorators. Some are over the top, some are just like your mom’s house. Most do their own decorating,” she said.

She described one home as a nod to Italian architecture, which had beautiful furniture. She described another house as quirky. Every room was painted a different color.

“That house got a lot of comments,” she said.

Spray remembered a home from last year’s Chez Noel.

“The most unique home,” said Spray, “was built in the turn of the century, 1904. These were the second homeowners.”

Tickets are $40 and are available at Bargain Box Thrift Store, Victoria’s (9000 Ming Ave.), Sugardaddy’s (5512 Stockdale Highway) and Studio Bliss (3100 19th St.). For more information on Chez Noel, call 861-9223 or visit bakersfield.assistance.org. 

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