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A Fun Way to Fight Poverty: Host a Chili Cook-Off

By Allison Bearden

Allison Bearden, an Opportunity intern and chili cook-off co-host, shares how easy it is to host a small event like this at your work, school or church, raising awareness and funds to help eradicate poverty.

Do you want to make a difference in the life of an individual living in poverty? Virtually anyone who wants to contribute to poverty alleviation can make an impact through hosting a small fundraising event.

For example, here at Opportunity’s U.S. headquarters, our fall interns hosted the First Annual Chili Cook-Off to end their semester with a delicious bang. The event proved to be a fun time for Opportunity employees to gather together and successfully raised funds for Opportunity’s operations in South Africa via anOptINnow fundraiser.

“Small events are beneficial to Opportunity’s global operations because they’re a fun, easy way to help others in need,” said Prospect Researcher Dan Zarlenga. “I’m a big believer in the idea that there’s many ways to help people, and who would’ve thought that making chili would do just that? And events like this are win-win for everybody – people in poverty are helped through the money raised, and those making thedonations get to enjoy delicious chili, so what’s better than that?”

When noon rolled around on the day of the cook-off, chili lovers congregated in Opportunity’s lunchroom, ready to sample each chili and vote for the tastiest recipe. Marketing Communications Specialist Emily Riemer’s meaty chili was a big hit with several of the men in the office and was quickly finished off. Indonesian chili made by VP of Strategic Initiatives Steve Nelson and his wife Sharon was distinctively delicious due to its exotic spices. Major Events Specialist Lauren Jones’ meat chili included cheddar cheese and egg noodles, making mouths water. Dan’s creative concoction was a delicious blend that was particularly remarkable because it was a near-disaster: “I originally used way too small of a pot,” said Dan. “I had to transfer the chili mid-cooking into a larger one, which made me lose a quarter of the chili as it splashed everywhere.” Ultimately, Proposal Writer Marissa Benner’s top-secret recipe chili won the votes of most of the chili cook-off participants. Her flavorful vegetarian blend included onions, peppers and avocado, among other things.

A chili cook-off like this is surprisingly simple to plan. First, the interns created anonline fundraiser on OptINnowand sent out a short email to everyone in the office with details about the event and the cause, and invited them to enter a batch of their chili in the cook-off competition. After getting several excited responses from chili cooks, we sent out an email explaining what to bring with their chili on the day of the event (a Crock-Pot® or slow cooker, ladle, and a creative name for their chili). The day before the event, we sent out a reminder to all in the office and encouraged anyone who couldn’t attend the lunch to donate to our OptINnow fundraiser instead. The interns brought bread to accompany the chili, as well as serving supplies and a place for tasters to cast their votes for the winner.

“With very little preparation and organization needed–less than an hour–the chili cook-off was a low-stress way to build community,” said fall intern Kari Wagner. “I enjoyed the opportunity it provided to spend time with people from all different departments.”

With the winter season in full swing, who wouldn’t want to help alleviate poverty by sampling a warm bowl of chili? Plan your own winter Opportunity fundraiser and use the comment field below to share with us how it went!

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