Children’s Home holds first-ever gingerbread house competition

pramati@macon.comDecember 2, 2012 

Four-year-old Elcee Leslein thought her gingerbread house won the competition at the Georgia Industrial Children’s Home simply because she turned it in first.

It turns out she won her age-group category because her contribution was the best.

Elizabeth Leslein said her daughter has built gingerbread houses with her father the previous couple of years, but this is the first time she’s ever displayed one in public.

“It’s fun for us,” she said. “(Elcee) loves to do arts and crafts. It’s exciting to be able to do (the competition).”

There were 12 entries for the first-ever competition that will benefit the children’s home in a couple of ways, said Lisa Wicker, marketing coordinator for Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, which operates the home.

For one thing, the competition will raise some money for the home since three of the entries will be auctioned off online, including entries from professional bakers Amanda Meadows and Mary Virginia Gage.

But the competition also raises awareness for what the home does, she said.

“People don’t realize things have changed” since Twin Cedars took over in 2009, Wicker said. “This is to raise awareness as much as it is a fundraiser. We foster kids so they can transition out into the community. We build the skills they need to do that.”

Wicker said there are currently 46 kids between the ages of 12 and 19 at the home.

“They are kids who can’t live in their home of origin or with relatives,” she said. “Our kids all go to public school, and we have an education coordinator who works with the school system, and they work with us. When (Twin Cedars) took over, there was a low number of residents, but we’ve re-tooled it.”

One of the residents, Jessie, 15, won his age group with four other residents. It’s the first time he’s built a gingerbread house.

“It’s the honors cottage on campus,” he said. “The first one we built broke, but we were able to get (the new house) finished Saturday night. It just so happens we won. It feels good.”

Jessie said the group had a difficult time keep the house from falling down. He said he might not be at the home next year, but if he is, he wants to enter the competition again.

Wicker said the home will make the competition an annual event, and even plans to have a gingerbread house-building class next November to increase the number of participants.

She said the home has a 7.5-mile track that is used by runners and bikers in the community, including high school cross-country meets. The home also has an orchard to grow pecans, which generates a revenue stream and gives the residents a chance to learn the agribusiness.

All these activities help acclimate the residents to outside life.

“We’ve made it an independent living community,” she said. “We’re teaching kids how to live autonomously after they leave here.”

The home also is selling specially made Christmas ornaments in addition to auctioning off the gingerbread houses. To learn more, visit

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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