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Homes for the holidays
Pilot Club to host 13th annual tour of homes

For the last 12 years, the Conyers Pilot Club has hosted the Christmas Tour of Homes in the Olde Town area, but this year's tour will have an interesting twist.

In addition to five historic homes, the 2008 tour will include visits to Conyers Presbyterian Church and the First United Methodist Church, locales which have never been showcased on what has become a major fundraiser for the local Pilot Club.

"In most years, we usually have seven homes," said Pilot Club member Dolores Biddy. "This year, we're going with five homes and two churches, which is interesting because we've never had the churches on the tour before."

The tour is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7. Biddy said that every dollar raised goes to the Pilot Club's long list of projects to aid those with brain disorders, ranging from Alzheimer's disease to autism to trauma-related injuries.

"Once a month, we visit local nursing homes for ice cream parties and Bingo," said Biddy, who's been a member of the Conyers Pilot Club since 1982. "We also partner with the Brain Injury Support Group to provide meals for their events, make donations to the Autism Foundation and hold two parties every year for Industrial Enterprises."

Advance tickets for the tour are $12 and can be purchased at the Conyers Welcome Center, which is located in the Conyers Depot (770-602-2606); at Conyers Pharmacy, on West Avenue (770-929-1414); or the Conyers Pool Christmas Store on Honey Creek Parkway (770-483-3532). Day-of-the-tour tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Historic Rockdale County Jail on Milstead Avenue.

Biddy said the club hoped to raise as much as $5,000 for their various projects and initiatives.

"That's really our target every year," she said. "We have new folks take part in the tour every year as well as people who have come almost every time we've hosted the tour. But there are still some folks out there who don't know about the tour. If we could get the word out, we'd sell 1,000 tickets. But there are many people who do know about it because we've already started hearing from people who want to know when they can get their tickets."

Of the five private homes on this year's tour, two have been part of the holiday tradition before - a circa-1906 house owned by Jason and Andrea Hill and a the home of Daniel and Deborah Digby, which was built in 1924.

"The Hills and the Digbys have made changes to their homes since they were last on the tour," said Biddy. "It's quite a gift all the participants are giving to the community, to open their homes for this tour."

"I think this is the third time we've been on the tour since we bought our house seven years ago," said Jason Hill, whose tenure on the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners ends in January. "It's been two or three years since the house was on the tour and we have made some changes, adding a master bedroom, garage, utility room and an upstairs space."

Hill said that he and his wife enjoy opening their Main Street home for a variety of reasons.

"We know a lot of folks in the Pilot Club and we know this is a good fundraiser for them," he said. "And we like to do anything we can to help. And we also like to invite folks into our home because sometimes it's the only time we get to see some of these people all year. It's a treat during the holiday season."

Pilot International was founded in 1920 in Macon (which remains the organization's home city), and the Conyers Pilot Club was established in the early 1960s, Biddy said. The local club has 32 members (including two men) and is one of 62 Pilot Clubs in Georgia.

"It's all about community service," said Biddy. "We're a working club because we've got a lot of tasks to see to. This is not a country club - people with a heart for service make up our membership."

For more information on the Conyers Pilot Club's 13th annual Christmas Tour of Homes, contact Dolores Biddy at 770-787-0498 or by e-mail at ltbdnb@bellsouth.net.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact features editor Karen Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

Jason and Andrea Hill

1049 North Main Street

The Hill home was built in 1906 and has served as the residence for a number of well-known Conyers families through the last century. The Hills purchased the house eight years ago and have made extensive upgrades, most recently adding a two-car garage, utility room, master bedroom and an upstairs space. In the early 1990s, the house was used for the television film "Stay the Night," which starred Barbara Hershey, Jane Alexander and future Presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

Daniel and Deborah Digby

963 North Main Street

Besides serving as a residence since its construction in 1924, the Digby home has also been a rooming house and has made space available for a photography studio and insurance office. The Digbys have owned the house since 2002 and have renovated the kitchen and upstairs bathroom and added a room and porch at the rear of the house. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house has oak flooring and steam radiators, as well as three fireplaces.

Mary and Buddy Allen

1140 Milstead Avenue

The Allens' red-brick, ranch-style home was built in 1961 and for nearly 25 years was the rectory for the Rev. Charles Elder, pastor of First Baptist Church of Conyers, which deeded the house to the Elder family in 1980. The home was purchased by the Allens, who own Flowers of Olde Town, earlier this year, and the biggest change made in the home thus far as been to replace the former daycare room into a pub.

William and Glenda Doster George

1225 Brookside Drive

This home has undergone extensive renovation in the last two years under the direction of architect Cynthia Karegeannes and builder Doug Hamby. New ceilings were installed in the kitchen and dining rooms and a front porch was added. When Glenda Doster and her late husband Wayne originally bought the house in 1974, early updates included the master bedroom and bathroom, as well as a porch connecting the garage and house. Mrs. Doster has an art studio in the woods behind the house.

Harry and Melba Downs

1226 Wellbrook Place

Although built in 1996, the Downs' collection of antiques enables the visitor to experience many different time periods. Heirlooms on display include a square grand piano (built around 1940), bedroom suites, a clock, a wash stand, hand-painted china, a church bench from Conyers Presbyterian Church and a set of double-glass doors, which were moved from Mrs. Downs' childhood home. There's a smokehouse located behind the home.

Conyers First United Methodist Church

921 North Main Street

Founded in 1852 and first occupied in 1902, the church has expanded regularly during its long residence in Olde Town. The sanctuary was completely renovated in 1962, with several notable stained-glass windows in the choir loft and narthex. In 1985, the fellowship hall and adult education wing was built and parishioners celebrated the church's 150th anniversary by preparing for expansions that later included a children and youth facility, and business office, conference room and narthex renovations. A special invitation is extended to those on the tour to attend the church's Chancel Choir which will present "A Festival of Carols" at 6 p.m.

Conyers Presbyterian Church

911 North Main Street

The church was established nearly 150 years ago and the original structure - featuring Stone Mountain granite - was completed 90 years ago. Since that time, the church has had several significant updates, including an educational building (built 50 years ago), office space, additional classrooms, a parlor and a large fellowship hall. The sanctuary has also undergone remodeling. Following the Tour of Homes, Jim Morgan (a former associate minister at the church) will present a piano concert of Advent music at 5:30 p.m. in the sanctuary.

SideBar: If you go

What: Conyers Pilot Club's 13th Annual Christmas Tour of Homes

When: Sunday, Dec. 7 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Where: Olde Town Conyers

Cost: Advance tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the Conyers Welcome Center, which is located in the Conyers Depot (770-602-2606); at Conyers Pharmacy, on West Avenue (770-929-1414); or the Conyers Pool Christmas Store on Honey Creek Parkway (770-483-3532). Day-of-the-tour tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Historic Rockdale County Jail on Milstead Avenue.