LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - For 54 years, a group of women in Independence, Mo., have been helping people in eastern Jackson County celebrate the holidays.
Thursday is the annual Holly and Mistletoe Homes Tour, hosted by the Independence Young Matrons.
IYM started in 1940 with a group of women who wanted to be active in their community through charitable work. Today, there are 91 active members.
The Holly and Mistletoe Homes Tour features homes in the community, decorated by the homeowners with their own collections of Christmas décor.
"We don't have decorators who come in and do the home," said IYM member Susan Jones. "These are the collections of the homeowner and so you really see things that you would be able to do in your own home."
As part of the tour, members of IYM bake homemade treats, wrap them and sell them at the Sweet Shoppe.
This year's tour features four homes in Lee's Summit, as well as the Sweet Shoppe at the Woods Chapel Community of Christ Church at 500 NE Woods Chapel Rd., in Lee's Summit.
"All our members do baked goods. We have raffle baskets," Jones said. "We have ornaments we've made. We're just trying to make money."
The money raised goes to a community theater production for 5,000 area school children. The members of IYM act in the play. They build the sets and make all the costumes. They've done the production for more than 55 years.
"For most of these kids, live theater is something they probably won't be able to see," Jones said.
Jones said many of the children in Independence schools won't get an opportunity to see a show at the Kansas City Repertory Theater or the Kauffman Center for the Performing Art. So their small production may be the only chance these children get to see live theater.
"For that hour, they are just transfixed on what's happening," Jones said. "They don't realize we're a bunch of old women up there. All they see are the characters and the make believe and they love it."
This year's production will be the first week of March at William Chrisman High School in Independence. It will be a play called The Trial of BB Wolf by local writer, Ray Ettinger.
The homes tour raises around $18,000. In addition to the theater production, the women also donate the money to other community organizations, like Community Services League and Hope House.
Tickets for Thursday's Holly and Mistletoe are $15 and can be purchased at the Woods Chapel Community of Christ Church or at any home on the tour.
To find the homes on the tour, or learn more information about IYM, visit www.independenceyoungmatrons.org.