ELKHART — Students from Bristol Elementary School who were touring Ruthmere Museum on Thursday, like other museum visitors this season, had an opporunity to participate in a contest to benefit charity. 

Every year the Ruthmere decorates for the holiday season, but this year, organizers decided to involve the community. This year’s decorations will benefit one local not-for-profit group, as determined by the public.

Ruthmere Museum staff members have partnered with nine interior decorators and designers to produce Christmas By Design, a first-time Ruthmere holiday design competition geared at bringing in holiday visitors while benefiting one local charity.

“We gave up the spaces in the house, turned them over and they decorated it any way they wished,” museum curator Bill Firstenberger said.

Staff members have always decorated the museum for the holidays, but collections manager Joy Olsen said she was happy with the result of her idea this year.

“For all the years that I’ve been here, we’ve never allowed anyone on the other side of the ropes,” Olsen said. 

The designers are some of the first people, aside from museum staff, ever to lay hands on many of the items within the museum, let alone to redecorate the rooms.

Each of the nine designers chose a local nonprofit partner. All during December, members of the public can vote on the designer, favorite business, nonprofit or room of their choice. The nonprofit affiliated with whichever designer’s room gets the most votes will receive $1,000.

Designers for Christmas by Design are Matzke Florist representing Loveway Inc. in the foyer; Black Crow on Main representing Guidance Ministries in the French drawing room; Garber’s Interior Design representing Soup of Success and Church Community Services in the Albert Beardsley Library; Andrew Skipper representing Cancer Resources of Elkhart County in the dining room; 820 Antiques representing the Humane Society of Elkhart County in Elizabeth Beardsley’s bedroom; Sweet Water Interiors representing the Elkhart Luncheon Optimist Club in Albert Beardsley’s bedroom; Antiques on Beardsley representing YWCA Safe Haven of Elkhart County in the service staff quarters; Camille’s of Bristol representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County in the kitchen and Master Automotive representing the Elkhart Breakfast Optimist Club in the vintage garage.

Holiday tours continue through Dec. 29. Tours are offered on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Ruthmere Museum campus will be closed Dec. 24-26.

Admission to the Ruthmere Museum is $10 for the general public and $4 for students. Seniors are $7 on Wednesdays. Children under 5 are admitted free. A campus pass for both Ruthmere Museum and Havilah Beardsley House (decorated in Victorian style for the holidays) is $13 for adults and $5 for students.

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