Gingerbread houses a sweet treat at Hospitality House

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Job Corps students use skills to delight others.

by Ellen Porter –

Inland Empire Job Corps students display gingerbread houses they baked and decorated [Photo by Ellen Porter].

In San Bernardino, Calif., the hot daily meal and warm beds at The Salvation Army’s Hospitality House always attract up to 96 homeless people, but for one day during the holiday season things were even sweeter.

On that day, guests enjoyed seven gingerbread houses, courtesy of the culinary arts students at the Inland Empire Job Corps. After making festive decorations during the day, the houses went on the menu for dessert that night.

“The kids are going to love these,” Hospitality House Director Roosevelt Carroll said after the Job Corps delivered their sweet creations. “It’s a blessing for them to even see a gingerbread house. Then they will eat them piece by piece.”

Baking and decorating these gingerbread houses were a labor of love for the young people enrolled in the Job Corps program. If it weren’t for the federally funded training program that also gives these 16- to 24-year-olds a place to live, many of them would be struggling too.

“This definitely was a lot of work,” said student baker Monica Zapata. “But it was a wonderful experience.”

The students spent anywhere from two days to a week cutting templates for the walls of the gingerbread houses, baking, and decorating them.

Job Corps’ culinary students, including the 10 who came to The Salvation Army, plan on careers as chefs. They’re learning the basics of commercial food preparation in the San Bernardino program and can obtain advanced training at another Job Corps program in San Francisco.

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