What started as a simple idea six years ago, has grown into a major fund-raiser for a local charitable organization.
The Sixth Annual Chili Cook-off at Sylvester’s Bar and Lounge in Broken Bow is a testament to its value.
Each year, the business selects a local non-profit, charitable organization to raise money for. Head Start was chosen the first year, followed by the domestic violence prevention arm of Cedars, Central Plains Center for Services the third year, CNCS and their outreach program the fourth, Lions Club the fifth, and this year the Children’s Christmas Fund.
The first year they had 20 chilies entered in the competition, and they raised $6,000. This year there were 39 chilies and when it was all said and done, $10,111 was donated to the Children’s Fund.
“It’s all about giving back,” said Fred Schumacher, owner of Sylvester's.
“We wanted to do something for the community,” said Jeannie Connely-Skolil, the person behind the original idea, and event chairperson. “At first we were worried about the room, and then we came up with the idea of having folks make the chili at home and just bring it in. Head Start had a donation can sitting at the bar, so we thought why not do this for a charity.”
The first year things went well enough they decided to do it again, only do it for a different organization in the community. A little something is learned each year.
“We wanted the money raised at the event to stay at home,” said Fred, explaining why they don’t consider the big national, or statewide organizations.
“We wanted the focus to be on kids, and to do something for people in need,” Jeannie added.
“It’s been an eye opener for us,” said Fred. “We’ve been blessed to do OK and we wanted to find a way to give back. I feel blessed to have been able to find something I’m good at and to find something I enjoy.”
Fred has been the owner operator of Sylvester's since November 1989. The bar provides the venue for the annual event. Both he and Jeannie were quick to say if it weren’t for the community, they wouldn’t be able to accomplish what they’ve been able to do.
“If it weren’t for the people who donate and if it weren’t for the people at the auction ...” commented Fred, looking for the words to express his gratitude.
“It’s a fun night,” Jeannie said, adding that at least she thinks it might be fun. She takes her job keeping the event organized seriously.
The packed house Saturday reflected her observations. Folks were there early to savor any of the 39 different chilies. Judges Pat Asuncion, Terry Eichelberger, Ron Price, Keith Moninger, Dorsett Sennett and David J. Birnie declared Tammy and Dennis Heying’s chili to be best, with Joanne Sadler coming in second and Larry Yantzie third.
An estimated 175 items were donated to be auctioned. Included in the evening’s givings were the tips earned by the wait staff; Sheila Applegarth, Sara Stithem, Ashley Eley, Jennifer Strickland and Pat Horn.
Josh and Geoff Cook volunteered their services as auctioneers, and Freddi Eichelberger, Rhonda Sheneman and Pam Gaston rounded out the group of volunteers.
The Children’s Christmas Fund has provided for children in need for nearly 60 years. It started when a trio of businessmen got together with an idea. They wanted to gather a couple of Christmas presents, a few trimmings for the tree and some food for the homes of a family or two they knew to be struggling.
Over the next couple of years, as the number of families on the list multiplied, the trio went public with a pleas for help. It wasn’t long before they asked the Broken Bow Does to partner with the project.
This past Christmas, the fund provided for more than 500 needy children and their families. The names each year come through a variety of sources, Health and Human Services, the Ministerial Association, area school systems ...
What remains constant is the need, the quiet way that the Christmas Fund works, and the humbling effect it has on its volunteers.
“It’s all about the Children,” said Fund Board Member Carolyn Mohler through tears Monday as she received the money from Jeannie and Fred.
Parallel to the desires of Jeannie and Fred for the money to stay local, the Children’s Fund Board has the same drive.
“100 percent of the money donated to the Children’s Christmas Fund goes to help those less fortunate, and 100 percent of those funds stay at home,” stated board member Deb McCaslin.
The fund serves children, not just at Christmas, but year round. There are no overhead costs and no salaries to pay. Everyone working for and working with the Children's Christmas Fund serves as a volunteer.
Five years ago the fund filed formal articles of non-profit incorporation naming Mohler, Juliana Jenkins, Ann Kawata, Pat Jackson and McCaslin to the board.
On behalf of the children in need the board says, “Thank You!”