Tornado-Ravaged Neighborhoods Rally Behind Northaven Home Tour

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As the tornado bore down, Mika Manaster crouched in a bedroom closet, shielding her young son under her own body. She blocked out much of what happened that night in October. But she remembers her son saying “I love you,” and hearing glass break as the windows blew out. A hole tore open in the closet.

“I could feel my son lifting up and we were just holding on for life,” Manaster said, emotion breaking in her voice. “When it all came to an end, we didn’t know what to do. We just sat there shaking. It was pitch black and we didn’t know what the world looked like around us.”

Massive Devastation for Northaven Neighbors

What the world looked like turned out to be something most of us only see on television. “It was massive devastation,” said Manaster. “Doors were completely blocked. People couldn’t get out of their homes.” But then something happened. Flashlights pierced the blackness as people started checking on their neighbors. Those from unaffected neighborhoods nearby joined in the search and cleanup operations. “Good Samaritans came out of everywhere,” she said. “In the middle of all that destruction, there was so much good.”

Mika Manaster's home was destroyed in October's tornado.
Mika Manaster’s home after the tornado.

Manaster, whose home was destroyed in the storm, serves as the fundraising chair for the Northaven Home Tour, an immensely popular event that takes place in the neighborhoods most affected by last fall’s storm. And in the aftermath of such a terrible event, a home tour might be the very last thing on people’s minds.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Northaven Tour Goes On

Tour co-chair Pete Peabody remembers frantically texting architect Bruce Bernbaum in the minutes following the storm. “I asked if he was okay,” he said, adding that Bruce’s humorous reply both surprised him…and didn’t. “He said something like, ‘I guess my house won’t be on the tour.’” Even as he grappled with the destruction of his own home, Bernbaum didn’t flinch away from supporting the tour. When asked if his firm, Bernbaum-Magadini Architects, could serve as title sponsors, Bernbaum’s answer came unwavering: “I’d be honored.”

Bruce Bernbaum’s home.

The reason for this community’s devotion to the Northaven Home Tour? Arthur Kramer Elementary. Described as ‘the beating heart ‘of its community, Kramer Elementary relies on funds from the tour in order to provide the programs that make it a stand-out institution. Letting them down was not an option.

“The home tour and Kramer have become synonymous,” said Manaster, who admits that while it took her a while to be ready to take on the tour again, she knew it was something she had to do.

“The home tour truly means so much to me because of what it does for our school,” she said. “That school is the true gem of the neighborhood.”

A School is a Home

Peabody questioned whether they could pull it off this year, and in fact, whether they even should. “It was a very emotional thing for me,” he said, acknowledging that the tour gave him a way to focus his efforts on repairing the community he loves so dearly. “We just focus on the positive and move on.”

The Northaven Home Tour benefits Arthur Kramer Elementary School
The Northaven Home Tour benefits Arthur Kramer Elementary School and the Dallas Education Foundation.

Forging ahead with the tour was also a way to lift up schools that were not so fortunate as Kramer to have escaped the storm’s path. The Northaven Home Tour will donate a percentage of the proceeds to the Dallas Education Foundation for the repair and restoration of schools affected by October’s storm.

“To think of how it would be if we lost our school,” said Manaster. “I can’t imagine. That’s a home! A shelter. That’s their lunch. It’s their everything. To be able to aid in the rebuilding, to give back to Thomas Jefferson [High School] and help rebuild their library, that’s important to me.”

Creating a New Generation of Volunteers

For Peabody, it also provides a valuable lesson for their children. “It’s really important for us to lead by example for our kids. We might not be Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban, but we can all pitch in and volunteer.”

Despite the tremendous setbacks, he believes this year’s Northaven Home Tour promises to be the best yet. And Peabody’s ready to give credit where credit is due.

“Oh, it’s absolutely the caliber of volunteers and enthusiasm of homeowners. A month ago we were questioning whether we were going to have tour, and it’s suddenly pulling together better than we’d ever done,” he said. “It really takes a team.”

The Northaven Home Tour kicks off April, 18, 2020 at 10AM. Details to follow. Enjoy a sneak peek below!

7225 North Janmar Drive
7225 North Janmar Drive. Photo by Dror Baldinger. Courtesy Malone Maxwell Borson Architects.
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Heather Hunter

In addition to a 15-year career in marketing and communications, Heather is an accomplished freelance writer and has contributed to The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column and “The United States of Dating” on National Public Radio. Her blog, This Fish Needs a Bicycle, was syndicated by NBC Universal (iVillage) for four years. As a ghostwriter, her work has appeared in publications such as WIRED and Stadia Magazine

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