MARYVILLE, Mo. — Five homeowners decorated their residences and opened their doors to the public for five hours on Sunday as part of the Second annual Christmas Homes Tour sponsored by Under the Son Ministries.

Throughout the day, up to 151 people may have visited the five local homes, getting a chance to check out other ideas for Christmas décor. Donella Sherry with Under the Son Ministries said that it’s difficult to say with any certainty how many people toured the homes, but that the organization sold 151 tickets. That amount is slightly fewer than last year, but with the snowy weather she said they were quite pleased.

“We were thrilled with that,” Sherry said. “The homeowners loved it. They said how gracious everyone was coming into their home.”

Those who made their homes available on this year’s tour were: Mike and Donna Buffa, Mark and Melinda Hoover, Kristi Grispino, Steve and Rita Miller and Steve and Kathe Demott.

During the visit to the Miller home on Cedar Ridge Drive, visitors were able to see a bit of family history in the basement. A long old barn board engraved in 1884 tells about the first snow of the year.

“The board was there since I was a kid, of course,” Steve Miller said. “The scrapes and cuts on it, when I was a kid I’d back the feed grinder in and I’d get over too close and scrape that off.”

He said the family redid the barn in 1981 and took it off, but then built a granary in it and put it back on. After he inherited the barn at the family farm in Graham, he finally decided to take it down.

“They don’t know who carved it exactly,” Steve said. “Nobody in the family carved it. It was like a hired man. The farm down there back in the 1800s was a pretty big farm for the area and one summer a guy just did that.”

He explained that workers lived in a bunk house there and one of them would just go out there every night.

“The guy was there when it snowed,” Steve said. “Later on that summer, he decided to make note of it. Kind of crazy isn’t it?”


The only old home on this year’s tour, a 90-year-old plantation-style home on Lawn Avenue is owned by Mike and Donna Buffa.

Those touring were treated to the neat characteristic charm of the older home, including an open staircase and original built-ins. The kitchen has been renovated and Mike Buffa said 55 new windows were replaced in the home after they purchased it a little less than two years ago. However, a few original leaded windows were left alone.

“It’s been a little bit of work,” he said. “All the electrical has been redone. … We’ve been busy.”

Original blueprints of the home are framed and hanging along the wall in the stairwell.

“We’re the only old home (on the tour this year),” Donna Buffa said. “There are some gorgeous homes. We tried to keep a vintage look to honor the age of the house.”

Carol Owens, who helped give tours at the Buffa home, said the owners and helpers toured all the homes on Saturday night, before the big day Sunday.

“They’re each visually different,” Owens said. “I’m from Maryville and I saw some of them being built and thought, ‘I’ll probably never get inside of them.’ Well I got to last night.”

In the master bedroom is a headboard created from post office shelving. Owens explained that the Buffas both worked for, and retired from, the United States Postal Service and that is where they met out in Colorado.

Just off the master bedroom is the Buffa’s walk-in closet, which used to be a nursery. Owens said nowadays more room is needed than what the older houses allowed for closet space.

With much of the house kept in its original state, including tiles in the en suite off the master bedroom, some windows and wallpaper in the breakfast nook and more, the house really kept the feel of a grand plantation-style home.

Donna Buffa said she was particular about the décor in the sun rooms, specifically the tobacco-leaf style fans.

“I had to have them,” she said. “It wasn’t easy to find the size that we needed.”

It is that attention to detail each of the homes offered with regard to holiday décor, giving tourists ideas for their own decorations.

Also a part of the tour, the homeowners held a scavenger hunt and door prizes. Donella Sherry, co-founder of the tour, said she will be working later this week to get those out to the people who won them.

The homes tour raises funds to help Gethsemane Home. Steve and Donella Sherry founded Under the Son Ministries. The couple have been traveling off and on for the past eight years to Gethsemane Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they work with local Christians to spread the word and help others.

Donella Sherry said her last day at work at Northwest Missouri State University is set for Jan. 11, 2019, and after that they will begin traveling more often and regularly to Chiang Mai.

“We’re not quite old enough to retire, but we’re going to go ahead,” she said. “We will go back into the ministry full time.”

Another way the Sherrys are raising funds is through the sale of items from Thailand as well as holiday décor. Donella Sherry said they will hold sales on Dec. 6, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at their home, 1103 W. 18th St. The organization also will be selling items from Thailand at the South Nodaway School Holiday Craft & Vendor Fair is Barnard, Missouri. The sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school, 209 Morehouse Street.

The Sherrys look forward to continuing the Christmas Homes Tour next year on Sunday, Dec. 8. Donella Sherry said they already have a couple of homeowners interested in being part of the next tour. For more information about the tour or to offer support for Gethsemane Home, contact Steve Sherry at 660-254-5775.

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