REED CITY — Teams of Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital and Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital staff used brought creative Christmas skills into play during this year's gingerbread house contest.

The annual event is organized by Jeff Godfrey, manager of nutrition services for both facilities.

"The contest is to get the staff to work together on something other than work," he said. "It was a pretty cool thing to do and it builds morale and teamwork. You never know what you're going to get."

Nineteen entries were submitted in total. Participants had about two weeks to complete their masterpiece, using a gingerbread house kit and anything they deemed worthy to make it a winning entry. Judging took place on Dec. 16 and 17 by all cafeteria customers, and first place winners at each location were announced on Dec. 18.

"We had a great turnout," Godfrey said. "This is the first year we've included Reed City and we had a really great turnout there, too. The feedback from viewers was positive, and some people specifically came to look at the entries."

In Big Rapids, the health information team consisting of Kellie Wyatt, Tonda Covey and Kylie Davis took the top prize with their creation for the second year in a row. The group constructed their house with licorice, different colored frosting and miniature lights, and added a train made of chocolate graham crackers, gum drops, peppermints and more, complete with a licorice track.

"We had to brainstorm ideas, and we got onto Google to start searching," Davis said. "Then one of us threw out the idea of The Polar Express."

The team said it took about six hours to complete the entry, of which they are proud. The women added they plan on defending their title again next year.

In Reed City, Kelly Flagg of the medical imaging department, won't take all the credit for her piece that took home first place.

"I had a lot of moral support from the department when I was making it," she said. "And my husband painted the background. I wanted to do something a little different and I wanted some way to have stars above the house.

To finish her piece, Flagg used pretzles, fake snow, candy canes, cereal and more. The finished product was a diorama of a cozy home surrounded by fluffy snow set in the woods at night. It took her roughly one day to complete.

"It was a lot of fun and there were a lot of good ideas that I saw," Flagg added. "I'm excited that I won."

Those who took first place received a gift basket and bragging rights until next year's competition.

"The winning pieces were awesome and creative," Godfrey said. "You can tell they took lots of time and effort into each one."