By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The 26th annual United Way Chili Cookoff will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Enid Event Center.
The theme this year is “Chili to the Rescue.” Tickets are $5 at the door.
Last-minute applications from individuals, churches, businesses and organizations are being accepted, said Chili Cookoff Chairwoman Kathleen Long. Deadline is Thursday. Applications may be made by calling the United Way office at 237-0821, or emailing Joni Williams at joni@uni tedwayenid .org.
Having the cookoff at Enid Event Center should allow for more room for everyone, said Pamela Ballard, executive director of United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.
“The Event Center allows ample parking, adequate electrical capacity for all our vendors and plenty of seating for our customers,” she said.
Seating has been in short supply at previous cookoffs at Cherokee Strip Conference Center, Ballard said.
In addition to chili, there will be live entertainment, door prizes and a restaurant package drawing, she said. Ticket price includes drink, chili and dessert. Tickets also can be purchased in advance from the United Way office.
The cookoff committee expects at least 40 chili entries. The entries will compete in three categories: Judge’s Choice, Top Dollar Chili and Best Booth. Tasting begins at 11 a.m.
Ballard said the theme of “Chili to the Rescue” fits well in the campaign theme of “Live Heroic, Give United.” Contestants are expected to apply the theme in a variety of ways from superheroes to rescue workers and medical professionals, Ballard said.
“Our vendors are extremely imaginative and always amaze us with their creativity, which lends for a wonderful event,” she said.
All of the funds benefit the 16 partner agencies of United Way, together with the Impact Initiative established this year, “United, Early Education. Strong Families. Bold Economy.” The 2013-14 campaign goal is $1.15 million — the largest amount ever sought by United Way.
“The board of directors, along with the campaign team — led by the Enid Fire Department — believes the impact of early childhood education is critical in transforming lives and ending generational cycles of poverty,” Ballard said.
United Way officials plan significant resources to be allocated for pre-kindergarten classrooms, in a partnership with Enid Public Schools, and Parents as Teachers program through CDSA, Ballard said.
One of three focus areas of United Way this year is education. Ballard said every study shows early childhood education impacts third-grade reading levels, which directly correlate with graduation rates. Graduation rates correspond to incarceration rates and lifetime learning levels, and both of those indicators impact the local economy, she said.
Enid Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Hime agrees and has been advocating for the expansion of early childhood education and the pre-K program since arriving in Enid, she said.
“Early childhood is a great equalizer in helping us prepare all children to become happy, productive citizens,” Hime said.
The 16 United Way agencies are Booker T. Washington Community Center, Cimarron Council Boy Scouts of America, Cimarron Valley Chapter of American Red Cross, Community Development Support Association, Consumer Credit Counseling, Denny Price Family YMCA, Enid Community Clinic, Enid Metro Commission, Child Advocacy Council, Hedges Regional Speech and Hearing Center, Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, RSVP, Salvation Army, YWCA Enid, Youth and Family Services and Legal Aid of Western Oklahoma.