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Colorful and creative fundraiser

Story provided by Bill Ciesla and Jim O’Neill, Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club members. Photos by Bill Ciesla. | Dec 18, 2019

family_decorating_gingerbread_house

What’s an ideal family event for the holiday season that is colorful, creative and lots of fun? The answer: decorating a gingerbread house.   

The Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club of Fort Collins, Colorado, has found that decorating gingerbread houses is also a great way to raise funds for its many service projects, in addition to providing a fun activity for the city.

The gingerbread decorating event began in 2011 as a fundraiser for the Center for Family Outreach, a Fort Collins-based organization dedicated to helping adolescents and their families navigate life’s challenges. In 2017, the Eyeopeners worked with the Center of Family Outreach and sponsored the gingerbread decorating party on their behalf. This event was initially held in one of the Fort Collins’ larger churches. In 2018, the Center was no longer interested in maintaining the event, so with their permission, the Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club assumed leadership as a Kiwanis fundraiser.

first_prize_use_of_candy How are funds raised? Local businesses and individuals sponsor a gingerbread house for a donation of US$500. A donation of $1,000 provides the donor with three gingerbread houses. Donors have the option of assembling teams to decorate the houses or to let the Eyeopeners assign gingerbread houses to groups of people. Kiwanis members assemble the houses and the club provides all of the materials needed to create gingerbread house masterpieces.

During the first years of this project, assembling the gingerbread houses for decorating was an all afternoon and evening ordeal for the Kiwanis members. One member, Bob Hansen, who is a process engineer, studied the situation. He came up with a modern assembly-line process complete with jigs to aid in stabilizing the houses until the royal icing frosting hardened. He turned an all afternoon and evening assembly ordeal into a two-hour breeze.  

In 2018, the club moved the Gingerbread House Party from a church to the Foothills Mall, a large shopping mall on the south side of Fort Collins. This location gave the event a lot of visibility and helped stimulate community interest. In addition, a brass band played Christmas carols. Carol Tunner, also a member of the Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club, recruited three judges to rate the finished houses.   

finished_gingerbread_house First, second and third place prizes were awarded for the following categories: most creative, best use of candy, best youth team and best overall theme. A total of 12 teams of decorators received prizes.

The 2018 Gingerbread Decorating Party was a huge success. Thirty gingerbread houses were decorated by more than 100 participants. The Eyeopeners Kiwanis Club netted more than $10,000 to support its many community service activities. Plans are already underway for future Gingerbread House Decorating Parties. It’s an event our club hopes will become a Fort Collins tradition.

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