Gingerbread Wars Fought for a Cause

The Gingerbread Wars originated as a way to have the staff of 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 weeks of school.  Dr. Michael McTasney, Principal, and Cheryl Tukua, Assistant Principal, hope was to provide them time to not focus on more work, but just 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 to them.  Tukua explained, “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.  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 as they watched the groups hard at work on their houses about how voting should occur.  The goal was to have the houses displayed in the front office for all to see and enjoy and have students and the community vote for their favorite gingerbread house. Paper votes would be a mess and difficult to go through.  Tukua thought of using pennies, as they’re convenient and would be easy for the staff to support if students didn’t have pennies.

Then the question was what to do with all of the pennies after the contest was over.  Dr. McTasney wanted to donate the money to something that the staff could buy into and would be motivated to support. Assistance League of Temecula’s Operation School Bell philanthropic program was immediately chosen, as the organization is one that quickly supports students at GMS and the school sees and feels its benefits yearly.

On January 7th, Assistance League representatives President Denise Lanier and Philanthropic Programs Chairman Annette Sheehy were invited 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: PE 1st place; Science 2nd place, and Language Arts 3rd place. A total of $3,409.50 was donated to Assistance League’s Operation School Bell.

Assistant Principal Tukua said, “Our staff are so happy about supporting Operation School Bell.  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 towards 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!”

Sheehy said, “Assistance League appreciates Gardner Middle School supporting Operation School Bell. 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, 2,629 students were provided with new school clothes in the five area school districts.”

Assistance League Thrift Shop, 28720 Via Montezuma, Temecula, is the main source of revenue for all chapter programs. Assistance League of Temecula Valley is a non-profit, 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

Picture caption: L/R Denise Lanier, Assistance League President; Annette Sheehy, Philanthropic Programs Chairman, find out the results of the Gingerbread Wars from Cheryl Tukua, GMS Assistant Principal