Valley News -

GMS Gingerbread Wars are fought for a cause


Last updated 2/8/2019 at 2:09am

Courtesy photo

From left to right, Denise Lanier, president of Assistance League Temecula Valley and Annette Sheehy, chairman of philanthropic programs, find out the results of the Gingerbread Wars from Cheryl Tukua, assistant principal of Erle Stanley Gardner Middle School.

TEMECULA – The Gingerbread Wars originated as a way for the staff of Erle Stanley Gardner Middle School in Temecula work together, creatively and competitively as a team on staff development day.

Before winter break, teachers and staff are often burnt out and trying to survive the last couple of weeks of school. Principal Dr. Michael McTasney and Assistant Principal Cheryl Tukua hoped to provide them time to enjoy each other and some connection time.

Gingerbread houses were purchased and presented to the staff.  Once the staff was told it was a competition, it was on, Tukua said.

"When presenting the idea to staff, they immediately got excited and then took the competition to the next level by marketing it to their class, parents and the community," Tukua said. "Teachers made competitions within their own classes and period, between their department and even held buckets up in the front drive drop-off location collecting money as parents drove through. It was heartwarming to see and so much fun to participate in."

As the staff worked, McTasney and Tukua talked about how voting should occur as they watched the groups hard at work on their houses. The goal was to have the houses displayed in the front office for all to see and enjoy and to have students and the community vote for their favorite gingerbread house. Paper votes would be a mess and difficult to count. Tukua thought of voting by pennies, as they're convenient and would be easy for the staff to support if students didn't have a penny.

The question was what to do with all of the pennies after the contest was over. McTasney wanted to donate the money to something that the staff could support. Assistance League of Temecula's Operation School Bell philanthropic program was chosen.

Assistance League representatives President Denise Lanier and Philanthropic Programs Chairman Annette Sheehy were invited Jan. 7, to meet the staff and officially accept the Gingerbread Wars funds donated by the students, staff and community. The results of the fundraiser competition were announced: first place went to the Physical Education department; second place to the the school's science department and third place to the Language Arts department. A total of $3,409.50 was donated to Assistance League's Operation School Bell.

"Our staff are so happy about supporting Operation School Bell," Tukua said. "Working at a school, there are often times we see our students in need and our hearts go out to them. Through Operation School Bell, we have personally seen many of our students get the things they need to be successful at school and in daily life. When we were thinking about a cause to put our money toward from our gingerbread house funds, we couldn't think of a better cause that meant something to us. Supporting Operation School Bell means supporting our own students. This fundraiser had meaning, and the buy-in we had from our staff was powerful. Thank you all for everything you do for our community. We appreciate your time, effort and care you give to our children."

"Assistance League appreciates Gardner Middle School supporting Operation School Bell," Sheehy said. "It is our main philanthropic program providing new school clothing each year to identified low-income students. During the programs shopping events last August through October and 2,629 students were provided with new school clothes in the five area school districts."

Assistance League Thrift Shop, 28720 Via Montezuma, in Temecula is the main source of revenue for all chapter programs. Assistance League of Temecula Valley is a nonprofit, all-volunteer philanthropic 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to serving the needs of families in southwest Riverside County for the last 29 years. For more information about philanthropic programs or membership information, call (951) 694-8018 or visit the chapter website at

Submitted by Assistance League of Temecula Valley.


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