A gingerbread house representation of the Alaska State Capitol entered by Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc. sits on display at Mendenhall Auto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The displays are a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Foodbank. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A gingerbread house representation of the Alaska State Capitol entered by Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc. sits on display at Mendenhall Auto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The displays are a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Foodbank. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gingerbread raises dough for nonprofits

Vote for your favorite creation through Dec. 19

They capitalized on gingerbread.

Among the structures squaring off in a gingerbread house competition and fundraiser at Mendenhall Auto Center’s showrooms is a recreation of the Alaska Capitol made by Jensen Yorba Lott architects.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Wayne Jensen, senior architect for Jensen Yorba Lott. “More importantly there’s 10 nonprofits in town that will receive hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.”

Ten local businesses did their best to make attention-grabbing sweet structures currently on display for the first-year event, and the public is able to vote on the houses by placing donations in jars next to each display. Each entry in the contest benefits a local nonprofit.

“It’s more than I ever could have imagined,” said Mark Troupin, general manager for Mendenhall Auto Center. “These guys knocked it over the fence. It’s just cool to walk through and see the energy that went into all of them. They’re all very different. I couldn’t begin to pick which one’s my favorite.”

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Every dollar placed in donation jars near the gingerbread structures counts as a vote, and all of the money collected goes toward supporting the nonprofits affiliated with the displays.

Coeur Alaska’s display supports Family Promise, Elgee Rehfeld LLC supports St. Vincent de Paul, Jensen Yorba Lott supports Southeast Foodbank, AEL&P supports Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), Alaska Marine Lines supports Gastineau Humane Society, Pavitt Health & Fitness supports Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL), Western Auto Marine supports Hospice & Home Care of Juneau, Northrim Bank supports Big Brothers Big Sisters, GCI supports United Way of Southeast Alaska and Ron’s Apothecary supports Cancer Connection.

Breaking the Jell-O mold

The 10 confection constructions include a depiction of the capitol, an impressively large pretzel rod cabin backed by a tree line, barges and all sorts of flora and fauna. Otters in repose clutch candy canes in one display. In another, a candy-coated whale exhales a Red Vine water spout.

The gingerbread scene made by Ron’s Apothecary employees features a light-up houseboat and twinkling lights under a blue gelatin body of water.

“That was combined group effort,” said Alicia Godkin, manager for Ron’s Apothecary. “It wasn’t a two-person project. It was all of us. Probably eight to 10 people.”

Godkin said everyone pitched in making enough blue Jell-O for the design, but the first batch fell prey to a dog, and a second round of Jell-O making was required.

A lot of thought, time and effort went into the project, Godkin said.

[It’s looking a lot like Christmas elsewhere, too]

“We discussed originally doing the governor’s house, but we thought maybe that was a common thought, but we decided to keep it Southeast themed, so we went with the houseboat,” Godkin said. “We’re happy. It’s colorful, bright and detailed. It’s fun to look at it and know which part of the team did what.”

Jensen Yorba Lott did opt to make a governmental structure, and they brought blueprints.

“We’re the architects that did remodeling at the capitol,” Jensen said. “We had scale drawings of the building for that project, so we used those to cut out templates based on those drawings. It took part of the week prior to bake all of the gingerbread pieces. We had between 40-50 different pieces of gingerbread. Then we made the icing that’s the glue to hold it all together.”

While some components of the displays were built ahead of time all of the gingerbread houses were assembled at Mendenhall Auto Center during business hours Saturday, Dec. 7.

“We probably had 60 people here,” Troupin said. “Some were here from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and some were done in a couple of hours.”

Back in auction

Voting will close, Wednesday Dec. 19, and the donations will be tallied beginning at 5 p.m.

The gingerbread house that raises the most money will also earn an additional $2,500 donation from Mendenhall Auto Center.

Troupin said it’s difficult to tell how early voting is going because $50 and $20 bills take up as much space as $1 bills, but more participation is welcome.

Once voting is closed, there’s still a last fund raising opportunity.

While the votes are counted Wednesday, the gingerbread creations will be auctioned off, and that money will also be donated to the supported organizations.

“Every dollar goes to the nonprofits,” Troupin said.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


A gingerbread house entered by Northrim Bank sits on display at Mendenhall Auto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The displays are a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Foodbank. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A gingerbread house entered by Northrim Bank sits on display at Mendenhall Auto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The displays are a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Foodbank. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A gingerbread house entered by Pavitt’s Health & Fitness sits on display at Mendenhall Auto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The displays are a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Foodbank. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A gingerbread house entered by Pavitt’s Health & Fitness sits on display at Mendenhall Auto on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The displays are a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Foodbank. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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