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Building a gingerbread house for the homeless

Joel Kiernan builds gingerbread cathedral
Posted at 3:50 AM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 12:18:05-05

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Joel Kiernan, a freshman at Stanford University, is spending seven whole weeks of winter break at home in Green Bay this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was actually going for a walk with my family and was like, I got a figure out some kind of project," he said. "I've got to do something. And I just kind of jokingly said, ‘I'll just make a really over the top gingerbread house.’”

The engineering student dug out his family’s favorite Christmas recipe book, and decided this year, he was finally going to create the two-feet long, one-foot tall Notre Dame gingerbread cathedral. Ten batches of gingerbread, ten pounds of flour, four jars of molasses and around 150 hours of work later, his work is nearly complete.

Gingerbread Notre Dame cathedral

“When I wanted to be a chef when I was little, I would look at this and be like, 'I’m gonna do this someday,'” said Kiernan.

Kiernan took the idea further; he wanted to make this gingerbread cathedral about a good cause.

“I got a phone call from an excited young man who said 'I have a fundraising idea, call me back,'" said Alexa Priddy, community engagement director for St. John's Homeless Shelter.

St. John's homeless shelter will raffle the cathedral off, selling tickets for 20 dollars each. After having to open a second shelter this year, this is the perfect fundraiser, said Priddy.

“It’s really humbling, and this means so much to us," she said. "He has such a huge heart, but he also has such tremendous skill with his engineering background and his love of cooking. This is just the perfect fit, and we’re just so glad that he thought of us and that he really wanted to make a difference for those in need this winter.”

And although not everyone would be able to spend up to nine hours a day building a giant gingerbread cathedral from scratch, everyone can find a way to give back, said Kiernan.

Joel Kiernan's nearly completed gingerbread Notre Dame

“I think it’s easy to look at something like this and say, ‘I could never do that, I could never do something that big,'" he said. "If you do it bit by bit, it’s all possible, but also this is something that aligns with my interests, this is something that comes easier for me. But I think everyone has their own gifts and their own ways they can help out and I just encourage people to look at those and use them how they can.”

You can purchase raffle tickets for the rest of today here. St. John's will draw the winning ticket and announce the winner of the gingerbread cathedral tomorrow morning.