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Homes tour opens doors for young women

Annual event organized by CFUW Orillia raises money for scholarships

A scholarship is more than just money. For some, it is hope.

“I know a lot of people doubt our generation,” said Jenice Mun, 19, “but it makes us hopeful when the older generation helps us like this.

“It inspires me to do my best,” said the recipient of last year’s Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) scholarship.

Mun, who is studying nursing at McMaster University, was one of many of last year’s recipients who helped serve tea Sunday at Fern Resort in Ramara. The event was part of the annual CFUW Orillia Homes Tour and Tea.

The money she received helped take some financial pressure off her parents, with whom she immigrated to Canada in 2003.

“They don’t necessarily have high-paying jobs, so a scholarship helped with the financial stress,” said Mun. “And I got to enjoy my first year at university instead of having to worry about it all the time.”

While serving tea, students got a chance to interact with those whose participation helped raise money for next year’s recipients.

“The people who come to this tea like to put a face to the recipients and see how (the scholarship money) is being used,” said Aimee Tindale, 18. “It’s really nice to talk to them.

“They want to know what plans we have for the future and even have advice for us,” said the Orillia resident who is studying at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Coming back to serve tea at the fundraiser is the students' way of giving back to the cause, explained Roline Maconachie, CFUW member and tour and tea co-ordinator.

“This is our major fundraiser of the year for scholarships for young women pursuing post-secondary education,” she said, adding 21 scholarships, from $200 to $1,000, have been given this year.

Since 1974, more than $200,000 in scholarship money has been given to more than 600 young women in the area.

Students at local high schools apply each year through their guidance departments. Additionally, the scholarships are open for those attending programs at Orillia Alternative School and the Orillia Learning Centre.

The fundraiser also offers participants an opportunity to take a tour of homes in Orillia and area.

It gives the fundraiser a twist, said Maconachie.

“People just love looking at other people’s homes, how they’ve decorated and what renovations have been done,” she said. “We select houses based on what people might like and sometimes people even suggest and recommend houses.”

One such house was the Ross house on Brant Street, which was built in 1880.

“So many people know the house and want to see the inside,” said Evelyn Ross. “It’s one of the many pieces of old domestic architecture in Orillia.”

Plus, it’s a good cause and everybody is enthusiastic about it, she added.

The Ross house is a heritage-designated home built more than 130 years ago for harness maker Edward McCrohan. It is Orillia’s only remaining Second Empire house, with a striking mansard roof, rooftop finials and a wrought-iron fence. In the past, it served as residence to three Orillia mayors.

“It’s awesome,” Becky Collens, of Ramara, said of the tour. “It’s really neat to see the different styles of houses.”

Her daughter had been skeptical of the trip at first but found it interesting enough to consider returning to next year.

“Lately, it’s all about technology and not about history and tradition,” said Emma Langman, 13, adding it was a good way of reconnecting with history in the area and supporting a good cause.

While the Ross house held historical significance, a more contemporary home on Victoria Crescent also captivated visitors.

“I love the pantry in this place,” Maconachie said as she pulled open a door, behind which were sliding vertical racks loaded with various cooking items, such as spices.

Situated on the shore of Lake Simcoe, the luxurious bungalow was completely remodelled a couple of years ago. Some historical elements still linger in the house in the form of family heirlooms, such as the Heintzman baby grand piano in the sunken living room that draws the eye as one enters the house.

The owner’s great-great-grandfather started the Heintzman Piano Company more than 150 years ago, and this heirloom still remains with the family.

Three other homes — one in Orillia, one in Severn and one in Oro-Medonte — were also part of the tour.

For more information on CFUW Orillia and its scholarship program, visit