Cottage Tour chair readies for round two

Sussex County has increased funding to the South Coastal Library by nearly 11 percent this year.
However, that budget supports just 11 staff members (four full-time, six part-time and a custodian) — not nearly enough people to handle this popular stop in Bethany Beach.

Without the more than 50 volunteers who work at the library alongside the paid staff, foot traffic would grind to a halt.

Meantime, out in the community, Friends of the South Coastal Library (FOSCL) volunteers work year-round to raise funds for all the little extras (like a holiday bonus for the hardworking library staff).

A few work for both the library and FOSCL, but they’re the exception — signing up for one or the other is enough for most people, and workloads for both groups of volunteers are at their heaviest this time of year.

Most notably this week, FOSCL members are gearing up for their biggest fundraiser of the year, and their 14th annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour.

Tour Committee Chair Donna Repass has returned for a second year.

The Repass house was a Cottage Tour stop in 2001, and that’s how she fell in with the friends.

“I’d met so many wonderful people who were involved with the tour, and when my husband walked back in the house — he was very nervous about putting the house on the tour,” she recalled. And rightly so — approximately 2,000 tour participants walk through each house over the two-day period.

“We walked back in at 4 p.m. on the first day, and you couldn’t tell one single person had been in my house, she laughed. “It was amazing. So, I was hooked.”

She’d just retired from a career as an elementary school teacher (Montgomery County, Md.) and had some time on her hands – not for long, though.

Repass checks out her share of reading material at the South Coastal Library, but also brings her grandchildren (a 4-year-old, a 6-year-old and two 9-year-olds). “They love the summer program — we check out lots of books, and they come to the puppet programs and the music programs that are held here,” she said. “It’s wonderful — the library really is developing as a cultural center here in the Bethany area.”

(However, they could definitely use a bigger meeting room, or maybe even an auditorium, she hinted.)

Capital plans aside, Repass said the Cottage Tour was plenty for any group of volunteers — it takes high energy and people usually only stayed on as chair for a short time, she said. The chair delegates more of the duties now than when she joined the committee as vice-chair four years ago (the chair handled all the raffles at that time, for example), but Repass suspected this would probably be her last term.

“I’m ready to do some other things, but I’ll still stay involved with the tour and still volunteer after this year.” she said.

FOSCL members gather for a wrap-up party in August — and then start working on the following year’s tour in September. “It’s a full time job,” Repass pointed out.

She recognized all the volunteers who handled the ticket sales, the raffles, the hostess coordination and the parking — and sent out a special thanks to the homeowners. “We wouldn’t have a tour, without them,” she pointed out.

Committee members start going through a list of prospective families whose homes they’d like to see on the tour, as early as late summer or fall.

“Some people come to us and say, ‘I have a great house, we just built this wonderful house at the beach, we’ve just finished decorating it — I think it would be a great house for the tour,’” Repass explained. “A lot of times, they’ve been on the tour, and they know the types of houses people like to see.”

In addition, designers and builders often called in, and she thanked local architect Greg Hastings in particular (not only for his suggestions, but for securing the two school busses the committee will be using to shuttle tour participants).

Neighbors or family friends might offer recommendations, too — she said there were always plenty of ideas coming in.

“Sometimes people decide they don’t want their house on the tour for one reason or another, but most of the time — they love the library, and want to do something, to give something back to the community,” Repass said. “We feel very lucky, here in Bethany, that we have so many wonderful homes to showcase, and very gracious homeowners.”

Somehow, they manage to narrow the list to 10 — Repass thanked committee member Michael Headman having done a wonderful job with this year’s review of the homes.

Here’s a sneak preview, based on his descriptions:

(1) The Cialella House — six bedrooms, five and a half baths, on the Indian River Inlet. Needlework by the lady of the house graces wall space throughout.

(2) The Faoro House — also on the Indian River Inlet, in a unique ship-style architecture. Panoramic views, European and modern beach décor.

(3) The Holland House — on the Loop Canal, an extensively remodeled three-bedroom, two bath. Sunroom and secluded deck.

(4) The Elling House — a sprawling one-story home, eight bedrooms and four baths, all stucco and red tile. Colombian and Latin American artwork and artifacts.

(5) The Lloyd House — in the Salt Pond, with rear porches and decking by a small waterfall. Custom woodwork, “Hunting Lodge,” antique oak and Art Deco.

(6) The Ege House — Cripple Creek, designer-owned. Contemporary décor, a huge family/sunroom, tropical accents.

(7) The Ryan House — modern day farmhouse in Clarksville, set back amidst the trees behind the Ryans’ Good Earth Market. Heirloom furnishings.

(8) The Kelly House — a rebuild capturing historic Fenwick flavor. Stone fireplace, coastal colors.

(9) The Shelesky House — Sprawling oceanfront home in an island theme, wraparound front and side porches, various decks.

(10) The Harris House — five bedroom, five and a half bath, “upside down beach home.” Mixed beach, contemporary and Retro décor and furnishings.