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Town of Tillsonburg's annual United Way Chili Cookoff

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The highlight of the Town of Tillsonburg's two-week United Way campaign might have been one of the hottest lunches in town Wednesday.

Town staff met at 20 Spruce Street for their annual United Way Chili Cookoff, featuring seven tasty entries. Dave Davis from the Public Works Department, a co-winner last year, defended his title winning the town's 2013 'Chief Chili Creator' award.

United Way Oxford annually launches a fundraising campaign in September, and generally wraps up in December.

“We picked last week and this week as our focus,” said Rick Cox, Director of Parks and Recreation.

“We do campaigning throughout the two weeks,” said Deputy Clerk Amber Zimmer. “At the beginning we did a kickoff event, a Coffee Break. We went around to all the town buildings – Public Works, the Museum, the corporate building – with coffee trucks, muffins, goodies to raise money.”

“The rest of it awareness around signing up for a payroll program,” said Cox. “It was a fairly simple campaign.”

The 3rd annual Chili Cookoff, however, is their signature event, and a chance to get town staff together in one building for a hearty – and social – lunch.

“It's a nice warm event in a typically chilly time of year. We haven't finished the voting yet, but we have to award the Chili Creator. Last year Dave Davis, representing Public Works, tied with the Community Centre.”

“The chili went pretty fast this year,” noted Zimmer.

“Some of the folks had some healthy cupfull's,” Cox laughed. “A lot of chili today.”

“The majority of our dollars raised are done through workplaces,” said Shelley Lachapelle, United Way Oxford campaign manager. “The people of Tillsonburg are very, very supportive of that. Schools take part, banks, there are multiple organizations.

“All over the county,” she added. “Tillsonburg, Woodstock, Ingersoll, we have support across the county, which is so important because the dollars are invested across the county. The majority of the dollars, around 65 per cent, are from workplaces.”

United Way Oxford also holds special events through the year, including this week's Student Stair Climb, which Glendale High School participated in.

“It's very inclusive,” said Lachapelle.

The exact tally of funds raised was not known Wednesday, said Cox, but he said the actual dollar amount was not the priority.

“We're more focused on awareness,” Zimmer agreed.

“You can see by the excitement today, people love coming out for this. It's about the number of people here, the support we're showing.”

County-wide, Lachapelle said United Way Oxford's goal this year is $1.1 million and as of Wednesday they had achieved 35 per cent of that total. Typically, about 95 per cent of their fundraising dollars come in by the end of December.

“We're looking good – the support from the community is positive, engaging... it's just phenomenal actually. The thermometer continues to climb every day,” Lachapelle summed up.

“It's not too late to get involved.”

chris.abbott@sunmedia.ca

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