When fall is in the air, Pensacola Ladies’ thoughts turn to gingerbread! The Pensacola group, now in our seventh year of service, held our 3rd Annual Gingerbread House Contest & Silent Auction on December 4, 2010. When we first introduced the contest in 2008, we were hoping and praying for at least 20 gingerbread houses. The contest was so popular that the final count of houses on display was 33!
The creativity used in the construction and decoration of these sweet structures is amazing! There were some truly grand creations, including a three-story replica of Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, complete with air-ambulance helicopters made of marshmallows and pretzel sticks. There was a whole “Whoville” neighborhood in gingerbread form, a clock topped with a cat made of toasted coconut waiting for the sleeping mouse made of fondant inside to awaken, a Russian landmark with decorative parapets, trains, planes, and even a slightly off-kilter beach house covered in the blue tarp so familiar after a Gulf Coast hurricane.
Our chairperson, Leslie Lacoy, came up with the idea of our gingerbread event, researched it and created the contest guidelines. Rules allow for structures to be made of wood or any other material as long as the material was covered in edible items. While many use frosting, cookies, graham crackers and candies to enhance structures’ exteriors, others take a more savory route, using dried beans, pepperoni, cereal, nuts and salty snacks. Everyone gets into the fun of planning and creating a gingerbread house — from entire hospital departments to LOC members to a group of young patients who teamed up to created a huge house one year.
A total of $600 in cash prizes wass awarded during the contest. Awards include “People’s Choice” recognition, which calls for visitors to cast a $1 vote for their favorite. In addition, first- and second-place winners in the following categories are recognized with large customized event ribbons and cash prizes: youth ages 5 – 12; young adults ages 13 – 17; adults ages 18 and up; and business/professional.
During the event, Santa and Mrs. Claus were available for photographs, several tables featured donated items in a silent auction separate from the auction of houses, holiday baked goods were available for purchase for a donation, free popcorn and lemonade was shared, and children received our LOC “Art from the Heart” coloring book, crayons and candy.
The first year, half of the proceeds were donated to Sacred Heart Hospital’s Pediatric Therapy Department and half were deposited into our account to be used for other needs presented to our group. The therapy department purchased mobile hearing-testing equipment for use at outreach activities and was very grateful for the support. Funds raised during our second contest and auction earned $500 for Sacred Heart’s Pediatric Care Center, which provides healthcare for children from low-income families. Again, our LOC chapter kept half of the proceeds from the event.
Our other main fundraising project is our annual Chairs for Charity event. On the first Saturday in April, 2011, we will hold our 4th Annual Chairs for Charity Auction & Pass-Along Plants Sale. Again, the participation our first year far exceeded our expectations! More than 80 painted and/or decorated chairs were donated by local artists, LOC members, hospital staff and friends.
Donations included Adirondacks, barstools, benches, highchairs, rockers, footstools, doll-sized chairs, and even a fun potty-seat-turned-party-seat decorated Mardi Gras style. Our first chairs event raised $6,000, of which $3,000 was given to ARC Gateway, which provides services to children and adults who are developmentally disabled. Our next two Chairs events raised funds for a program for special-needs students who attend Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Pensacola.
One of the teachers who attended the 2009 chairs event actually shed tears of joy because the program was struggling financially. This moved our members so much that we decided to make the program the beneficiary of our 2010 funds. In 2011, our Chairs for Charity event in 2011 will raise funds for Sacred Heart Cancer Center. Again, our LOC chapter will keep half of the funds raised. One of the keys to success is our outstanding volunteer auctioneer, local radio personality Marty Stanovich. The bidding wars are lots of fun to watch!
In addition to supporting these fundraising activities, our Ladies regularly volunteer in many ways throughout Northwest Florida – at St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores, a nursing home, a homeless shelter, a health clinic for the poor, the local Guardian ad Litem program (providing a voice in court for children), churches, at Sacred Heart Health System events throughout the year, and more. We support Sacred Heart Hospital’s food pantry that serves employees and visitors who find themselves at the hospital without resources for a meal. We also seek grants to help us continue to meet the needs that arise.
Each Christmas the group adopts a family in need and provides gifts and food. In 2009, we also donated a large amount of food for the hospital’s annual assistance for families in need during the holidays. Our “2 Cents a Meal” activity supports the international “D.R.E.A.M.” project to help AIDS patients in Africa through a Daughter of Charity contact. Monthly meetings help create awareness of the ongoing needs in our community.
We are a young chapter still growing and seeking new members! To reach us contact the LCUSA office at firstname.lastname@example.org