Although the event was intended for children, entire families, including parents and grandparents, build houses together or side by side, their enjoyment obvious, Michelle said.
"Sometimes there's a catastrophe because some of the kids used too much frosting and the cookies get wet and the houses collapse," Michelle. "Then people try to rescue them and put them back together."
Michelle, a teacher, feels making gingerbread houses has an educational component, too. Since they always run out of frosting ("We bring four gallons and it's never enough," Emil said), Michelle brings her stand-up mixer and extra powdered sugar so she can make more.
Once, when she turned to a couple of the youth and said, "I need to make more frosting," their jaws dropped in astonishment that one could actually make frosting, Michelle said.
"It's one of those little things I do take for granted," Michelle said. "My kids have grown up cooking for themselves and helping me cook. But for whatever reason in supportive housing, because their moms are working and they're staying with a babysitter, they may not have had some of those life experiences in knowing how to do the small things I take for granted."
The McCauleys also organized a gingerbread-making event for 30 St. Vincent de Paul clients at its recent Christmas party, Emil said.
On Sept. 26, at Mercy Housing's Moving Forward Together celebration at the Drake Hotel, the organization presented the McCauley’s with the 2018 Volunteer Service Award, according to a news release from Mercy Housing.
That first cross-country bike ride raised more than $60,000 for Mercy Housing Lakefront, the organization, the news release also said. Since then, the McCauley's have also participated in smaller cycling events for the organization, too, they said, with Michelle actually biking instead of driving.
With Michelle becoming a cyclist, does that mean Emil is perfecting gingerbread houses?
"I'm an architect myself by design," Emil said. "And it's for Mercy Housing that works in with that."