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ALACHUA – The Alachua Branch Library was filled with candy, laughter and enough icing to fill a small pool as children of all ages were accompanied by family and friends to the Alachua Branch’s fourth annual Gingerbread House Workshop, Sunday, Dec. 18. Each person attending the event received a free pre-made gingerbread house and a cup filled with their choice of candy with which to decorate.

“I’ve been volunteering here for four years,” said Emily Robinson, a 14-year-old high school student. “My favorite part is setting up because I get to see how happy the kids are when they walk in.”

Volunteers pre-assembled 204 gingerbread houses in preparation for this year’s workshop. Last year 147 houses were constructed and decorated. Each year the volunteers prepare more than the last in the hope of having even more community members participate.

“This library puts in so much effort and we need to put in effort as well,” said Carol Stride, a volunteer who has helped at the workshop for the past four years.

Gingerbread houses and an assortment of candies were donated by Walmart Distribution Center of Alachua, Publix Supermarkets and the Alachua Friends of the Library.

From Skittles and M&M’s to Twizzlers and Tootsie Rolls, tables were filled with so many candy choices that each child’s face lit up the moment they spotted the selection.

“It’s something different for her to do today,” said Emanda Baker, a mother accompanying her daughter to the workshop for the first time. Baker said her daughter loved many of the programs at the library and was exited to try something new.

While the general public was welcome to attend the workshop, 30 gingerbread houses were saved for members of the Arc of Alachua County and the halfway house.

Olivia Dryer, 7, and her brother Jackson Dryer, 12, were accompanied by their mother after seeing a flier for the event. When asked if their favorite part was decorating the houses or eating the candy, they both quickly exclaimed “Both!”

In three hours, more than 150 people, primarily children, came through the library doors and decorated their own gingerbread house. With the help of only eight volunteers and two staff members, the event was a complete success and will be enjoyed annually for years to come.

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