Sweet stories: Book Buddies’ gingerbread houses return

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Second grader Sawyer Peterson decorates the Book Buddies gingerbread house at Schmitt Elementary School in Columbus, Ind., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

A delectable display of decorations is making its return to downtown Columbus.

Book Buddies’ gingerbread house display will likely be set up at Gramz Bakery today, said director Gretchen Tregoning.

“It should be finished by the (Festival of Lights) parade on Saturday,” she added. The sugary-sweet houses will be on display during the month of December.

Book Buddies is a volunteer-based tutoring program that helps second and third graders in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. improve their reading skills. Second and third grade students from every elementary school in the school corporation have put the gingerbread houses together with the help of Book Buddies volunteers.

“We will be taking donations as votes for their favorite gingerbread house,” Tregoning said.

“And this year, we are doing a book theme for each house.”

The top three schools will receive prizes, including free books for students. Donations will be used to purchase books and supplies for the program.

The gingerbread houses were donated by the eastside Walmart. Former Book Buddies director Debbie Lindauer, who retired this past summer, donated candy decorations.

“Debbie actually was a prizewinner with our fundraiser with the Kiwanis ducks,” Tregoning said. “… She supported our program by purchasing a duck from us, and then won a prize and also chose to give back to us by donating some of the decorations, candy decorations, for the houses. Debbie was the person who started this fundraiser for Book Buddies, so it’s close to her heart.”

The tradition first began at the Inn at Irwin Gardens in 2013. The idea came from Ashleigh Fisher, who was the event coordinator for the inn at the time. The houses were then displayed at Viewpoint Books in 2014. Gramz has hosted the annual display since 2015.

“It’s been a wonderful tradition,” Tregoning said. “…I’ve been at Schmitt helping there this week, and the kids get so excited about it. I personally like that last year and this year we started to have it tie into a book that the children are familiar with and help them kind of get even more excited about reading.”