Olmsted Community Church’s Fellowship Hall was filled Jan. 20 with families and clusters of friends enjoying warm food on a cold day during the parish’s fifth annual Chili Cookoff.
However, all the fun served a bigger purpose. The event was a fundraiser for two disadvantaged students OCC sponsors through Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and (Christian Church) Disciples of Christ.
Cliff, from the Philippines, is athletic. The church has sent him a basketball and, in return, they received pictures of him playing.
The Rev. Ron Dauphin said that their sponsored student in India, Devi, is very shy, but that she has been progressing well in her studies.
During a 2011 mission trip, Dauphin was able to meet Devi at her school for the first time in person, after years of letter exchanges and progress reports.
“She was a delightful kid. She has special needs, and for her to be singled out in front of all her peers, it was a big deal,” Dauphin said.
“They’re both very happy and healthy kids.”
Nicki Behr, OCC’s director of education and member of the Board of Christian Education, was chief organizer of the event this year. She said that the church donates about $900 annually to support housing, education, medical care and other necessities for the two sponsored students.
OCC has been involved with Global Ministries in supporting at least one student since 2003, but turned to biannual fundraisers to meet the costs five years ago.
“We’ve been supporting them for many years, and we needed a way to boost the help we could give to them,” Dauphin said.
Corbin Baum, also of the Board of Christian Education, said his organization floated the idea of a friendly chili-cooking contest the week of National Football Conference championship weekend.
“We weren’t sure the first year if there would be enough participation, but we were packed,” Dauphin said.
Behr said that the occasion has been steady in size and enthusiasm during the half-decade it has been put on. “It started big and has stayed big,” she said.
She added that the event is one of the easiest to plan every year, with community members and youth groups eagerly chipping in.
“The whole church is supporting the event,” she said.
John Norton, an audiovisual technician and OCC parishioner, won the award for best-tasting chili after a three-person panel of church volunteers conducted a blind taste test. His chorizo-flavored “Engine No. 9” stew has won two of the three years he has participated in the cook-off.
The church’s middle school-age youth group, Spirit, made the most popular chili, earning $103.25 at its table.
Behr said the cook-off raised about $500 total, down slightly from previous years. She credited cold weather and fear of contracting the flu as factors discouraging attendance.
Click here for more information on Child Sponsorship and how your church can get involved.