Gaston & Catawba

Gastonia holiday home tour, gala benefit area charities

It’s looking like Christmas at the historic Rankin-Mercer House in Gastonia.

Take a step over the 1925 threshold and enter a holiday wonderland of sparkling silver and gold decorations placed lavishly among stately antique furniture, rich greenery garnishing the 1920 mantlepieces and elaborately adorned floor-to-ceiling Christmas trees displayed prominently in each room of this privately owned Prohibition-era home.

During December, owners Dwayne and Brian JohnPaoli, throw open their doors and invite the community in for a bit of neighborly hospitality, Christmas cheer and the opportunity to help charitable organizations, especially Gaston Hospice, which has earned a big place in their lives and hearts.

In 2012, Dwayne JohnPaoli lost his mother, Patricia McNeal, to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. During the last two years of her life, Gaston Hospice helped him care for her in the home. “The support they gave us was very personal. It was a very personal connection. They are very compassionate people and it’s that compassion that helps ease the pain,” he said.

During that time, Brian JohnPaoli said, they learned that hospice was not just there for the dying: It’s are also there for the ones left behind. “A lot of people don’t know that they are there to help the living cope. They are there to help the family prepare for the loss and then help them once the loss occurs,” he said.

It was this appreciation of the hospice’s services that motivated the JohnPaolis to hold the first Charity Holiday Home Tour and Gala in 2012 in McNeal’s honor in order to raise money for Gaston Hospice. “It was a way of dealing with her death,” Dwayne said. “I wanted to turn her death into something positive.”

This year the holiday events at the Rankin-Mercer House, located on South York Road in the Brookwood Historic District, include the third annual Charity Holiday Home Tour on the weekend of Dec. 6-7, with group tours being offered Dec. 8-12. And the 2014 Holiday Gala will be held the evening of , Dec. 13.

The Holiday Home Tour offers self-guided tours of each room fully decked out in eclectic Christmas decor, along with a walk through the Gallery of Trees located in a separate building on the 3-acre site.

Tickets for the tours are $5 each, with proceeds going directly to charities chosen in advance by local individuals and organizations sponsoring a room or a Christmas tree from the Gallery of Trees). Every visitor will have a chance to vote for his or her favorite room and favorite tree by placing the ticket stub in a designated box.

The 2014 Holiday Gala is available for those who want to don holiday attire and socialize with friends and neighbors while enjoying refreshments and private tours of the home. Tickets are $35 per person and must be ordered in advance (space is limited). Proceeds of this event will benefit Gaston Hospice.

Last year, these events raised $8,000 for six charities, including Gaston Hospice, and this year the hosts hope to raise even more. Richard Lahm, executive director of Gaston Hospice, said, “Support like this is at the core of what hospice care is really all about. Hospice is about people helping people. Listening, caring, teaching, supporting, helping, and encouraging one another. This is the foundation of our work.

“Dwayne and Brian help us in this effort. What is so remarkable is that the venue is Christmas – a holiday that is rooted in life and living and love.”