By Nicole Hennessy
At Westfield Great Northern Mall, a row of Toyland-themed gingerbread homes lines the hallway near the food court. Traditionally displayed at Tower City, Welcome House – an organization that helps those with developmental disabilities – decided to move its display to North Olmsted, where three of its 32 family-style group homes are located.
Megan Nachtwey, director of fund development, said they thought it would be nice for more of the clients and staff to be able to check out the houses, and the mall seemed like a good, central location.
Having just celebrated its 40th anniversary, the organization decided to add to the display facts about the year the original West Haven Foundation was established – 1972. Later, the foundation became the Welcome House network.
In 1972, Maya Angelou was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and the film version of “A Clockwork Orange” was released. The last U.S. ground troops withdrew from Vietnam, Richard Nixon visited China and women finally acquired constitutional equal rights.
At the mall, people stopped to gaze at the gingerbreads – cookie ice skating rinks, tiny Cleveland-classic leg lamps, Santas, snowmen, gumdrop and chocolate bar shingles and presents – then continue on to the stores they’re headed to. Parents excitedly point out little embellishments to their children, who gaze at the sugary houses, probably wishing to eat them.
With a staff of 200 caregivers who provide services to more than 120 individuals “living in group homes or supported living sites in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties, as well as to many others living in family homes,” the website states, Nachtwey pointed out that Welcome House’s residents are neighbors and members of the community whom she hopes people are interested in getting to know, by meeting them or volunteering at one of the homes.
“We’re pleased to partner with Welcome House in bringing ‘Gingerbread Lane’ to our center for the first time this holiday season,” stated Great Northern general manager Michael Walsh. “The display will create awareness for a very worthy organization while also bringing holiday cheer to all the shoppers that will frequent the mall this November and December.”
On display until Christmas Eve, the gingerbread homes were prepared by nine local bakers in and near the Westshore area, including pastry chefs from About the Cake (Avon), Appetite Bakery/Deli (Lyndhurst), Colozza’s Bakery (Parma), Fligner’s Market (Lorain), Gingerm Bread Homes by Jon Thibo (Fairview Park), Great Scott’s Bakery (Rocky River), Luna Bakery Cafe (Cleveland Heights), The Grand Finale (Brunswick Hills) and The Village Baker and Grateful Dog Bakery (North Ridgeville), which created a house especially for the family dog.
For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Welcome House at 440-356-2330.
Mall hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Holiday hours do vary and will be posted online.