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View delectable decorations, feed young readers’ minds

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Gingerbread houses decorated by children and holiday trees adorned by professional designers will help raise funds for a program that pairs adult mentors with elementary school students to improve their reading skills.

The Christmas Open House and Decorators’ Showcase is 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11 at The Inn at Irwin Gardens.

The event is a fundraiser for the Book Buddies program, which gives area residents a chance to see the inside of the historic mansion built by Columbus banker and businessman Joseph I. Irwin.

It now operates as a bed-and-breakfast at 608 Fifth St., next to Bartholomew County Public Library.

Feast for the eyes

From the time visitors enter the double doors in the foyer, they will be greeted with lavish holiday decorations. They also will see the handiwork of children in the Book Buddies program, an eight-year effort of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

Book Buddies children and adults have spent the past two weeks working on the gingerbread houses, adding candy and other assorted decorative touches, to prepare them for the Christmas Open House. Visitors at the inn can cast $1 votes for their favorite house.

Christmas Open House

WHERE: The Inn at Irwin Gardens, 608 Fifth St., Columbus

WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11

DECORATIONS: Downstairs rooms decorated by area professional designers and gingerbread houses created by children and their mentors in the Book Buddies program

The best design

FUNDRAISER: Visitors can cast $1 votes for their favorite gingerbread house, which will go to the Book Buddies program.

DESIGNERS: Those donating their time:

  • Lauren Olsen of Social Butterfly Wedding Design Studio
  • Morgan Banks of Ashley Weddings & Events
  • Elizabeth Wetherald
  • Dianne Mohr Interior Design


Debbie Lindauer, Book Buddies director, said all of the money will go to buy books and supplies for the program, which assists second- and third-graders.

Funds always are needed to support the effort, Lindauer said. Also needed are adult mentors, who commit to one hour a week.

About 200 children are served in BCSC’s 11 elementary schools, supported by 400 mentors who donate their time, she said.

Designers’ support

Along with the children’s gingerbread creations, visitors to the inn can enjoy the holiday-decorated rooms downstairs in the 15,000-square-foot, 149-year-old mansion.

Four area designers have donated their time, filling rooms with sparkling trees, festive greenery swags, candles, handmade bows, poinsettias and creative touches, such as antique teapots and teacups on the tree in the home’s tearoom.

A fresh, Norway spruce tree with white, twinkling lights stands in front of the windows in the library overlooking the expansive gardens, and an angel theme, with a tree and decorations on the fireplace mantel, was selected for the parlor.

“This home is just so easy to decorate for Christmas,” said Ashleigh Fisher, the inn’s event coordinator, who was preparing to decorate the dining room last week.

Adding the children’s gingerbread houses throughout the bed-and-breakfast inn will add a special touch, Fisher said.

The inn has served as a location for a decorators’ showcase fundraiser in the past for the United Way of Bartholomew County, and the inn’s owners — Chris and Jessica Stevens — liked the idea of helping again, Fisher said.

“We wanted to see how we could get kids involved, and we thought the holidays were a perfect time,” Fisher said.

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