Calories with conscience
Sweet thinking has led to a new holiday charity event in Lawrence.
Gingerbread houses built by Lawrence area bakers will be displayed and auctioned during the first Eldridge Gingerbread Festival, set for Dec. 7 through Dec. 10 at the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Mass.
"We're trying to provide a means to raise funds for a very good organization -- Big Brothers and Big Sisters," said Rob Phillips, general manager of the hotel. "And we want to use our facilities and our staff ... to allow the organization to raise funds far in excess of what we could do in making a cash donation."
Proceeds will come from admission costs to the display and to the auction, as well as from the auction itself.
Becky Price, Big Brothers/Big Sisters co-director, said entries would be grouped in two divisions: graham-cracker houses, for children 6 to 12; and gingerbread houses, for people 12 and older.
Seeking entries, organizers have sent 5,600 fliers to Lawrence schoolchildren. Local bakers, bakeries and restaurants also have been notified.
Houses are scheduled to be delivered to the hotel on Dec. 7, and will go on display Dec. 8 and Dec. 9.
Three judges from Lawrence architecture firms will judge the entries on Dec. 10. Three $50 savings bonds will be awarded in the graham-cracker division, while prizes for gingerbread creations include a $300 cash award and dinner and accommodations at the Eldridge.
At 2 p.m. Dec. 10, graham-cracker houses will be auctioned, and gingerbread houses will go on the block in a black-tie-optional gathering at 7 p.m.
Price applauded Eldridge operators for selecting Big Brothers/Big Sisters for the event.
"They're paying for everything, and we get all the profits," she said. "It's something they're going to give us every year, so we plan on having this year after year."
Beverly Ray, a principal organizer, said a similar festival in Johnson County raised $35,000.
"We wanted the proceeds to go to a non-profit organization," she said. "First I thought of the Shelter (Inc.) because I'd done some work with them several years ago, and it's an excellent organization. But they already have the Festival of Trees.
"So then I thought, 'Let's do Big Brothers/Big Sisters because that will have something to do with the children.' "
Phillips said the festival also was organized as a tie-in to the Festival of Poinsettias, a month-long holiday celebration organized by the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We'd like to provide another thing that, in years to come, people put on their calendar and say, 'Hey, you've got to go to Lawrence and see all the fabulous gingerbread houses,' " he said.