CLEMMONS -- The children found a sweet situation last week during a gingerbread-decorating workshop at the Holy Family Catholic Church.

A trio of 3-year-olds -- Avinash Sabbagh and his cousins, twins Rebekah and Jordan Sabbagh Robaiotti -- worked Nov. 20 on eating candy and putting pieces to a gingerbread house.

Helping were Caleb Sabbagh, 4, and David Sabbagh, 13, as well as two of the children's mothers, sisters Michelle Sabbagh and Elizabeth Sabbagh Robaiotti.

David is the son of another Sabbagh sister, Carol.

Michelle Sabbagh said she went to the gingerbread workshop last year with Avinash. She said that the Sabbaghs, all from Winston-Salem, enjoy the workshops. "We get to be creative," she said. "And their grandmother (Judy Sabbagh) is in the hospital. This will go to her."

Across the room, Larry duPont worked intently, putting icing on the roof of a gingerbread house, as his wife, Veronica, and son, Hayden, 8, watched.

Then Veronica and Hayden helped him add the candy.

Nearby, the duPonts' daughter, Erica, 16, and her date, Jason Cibelli, 17, put icing and candy on a gingerbread Christmas tree, and there was giggling as some of the icing and candy failed to reach the tree.

"Dad's big on projects," Erica duPont said as she looked over and watched Larry work under Hayden's supervision.

"Dad has a pattern going," Veronica duPont said as she watched duPont, an officer for the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Veronica duPont said that the duPonts, who live in Advance, saw an advertisement for the gingerbread workshop and thought it would be fun.

"We did get to do it last year, and we made sure we did it this year," she said. "It's something we can do as a family."

Veronica said she was glad that the workshop's director, Lettitia Iruela, had built the houses and trees in advance.

Erica and Jason were using everything from Tootsie Rolls, Whoppers and Skittles to Twizzlers, gumballs and Starbursts to decorate their sweet tree.

Erica duPont said she likes the Christmas tree better than the gingerbread house.

"It's fun, very entertaining," she said as she added more candy to the tree.

Other people worked on various gingerbread items, including gingerbread men.

Iruela, who runs the workshops, appeared to be relaxed and watched others work. She said she got hooked on making gingerbread Christmas goodies when she was in college.

She has done the workshops with Girl Scout troops -- this is the fourth year at the Catholic Church. She also conducts workshops at two churches in Winston-Salem.

Why do it?

"Just look around at the kids," she said, sweeping a hand toward the children. "That's what I get out of doing it."

She started the workshops at the church as a way to make money for the church's building fund.

Iruella said she was up until 3 in the morning the night before, baking gingerbread and constructing houses and trees.

"This is probably the most behind I've been on baking," she said. "I'll work 200 to 400 hours over four months, me and my husband (Carlos). That counts buying candy, baking, bagging candy, putting the houses together, and I will decorate houses for this weekend."

Gingerbread lovers and others can attend two more gingerbread workshops this year at the Holy Family Catholic Church, on Saturday and Sunday.

Iruella said that 18 people decorated gingerbread on Nov. 20, but she said she expects 40 to 50 people at the other two workshops.

Iruella said that most people don't eat the houses, and some people might keep them two years before they begin to fall apart.

Erica duPont was asked how long the gingerbread tree will last.

"Two days, maybe," she said with a giggle.

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