Bowls of chili warmed people’s stomachs and spirits at Greenville Fire-Rescue Station 1 on Tuesday.
The money that went toward those spicy, savory bowls also could warm someone’s home this winter.
The City of Greenville’s annual chili cook-off raised $5,541 in the course of three hours with a silent auction and food sales. That money will go directly toward the United Way of Pitt County.
Dwain Cooper, president and CEO of the United Way of Pitt County, said funds raised will go in part toward helping people with rent and utilities by partnering with local agencies who can assist them.
Cooper said the need for those amenities has seen an uptick as holidays approach and hardships loom for some.
“We are seeing an increase in people needing Greenville Utility payments,” Cooper said. “I get calls every day; it is certainly a need. As you know housing is difficult here in Pitt County as we face challenges right now, so we are doing everything we can and are part of a network of people who are helping people out with utilities and such.”
Volunteers from each fire station and other city departments as well as local restaurants cooked up 40 different pots of chili, the most the annual event has ever seen. For $10, guests could get a lunch of unlimited bowls of chili, cornbread and a drink. Sup Dogs also was selling hot dogs with fixings, to include chili of course.
The array of judges was made up of Mayor P.J. Connelly, City Manager Ann Wall and Fire Chief Carson Sanders, who called some of the takes on the classic dish “interesting.”
“Everyone’s chili they believe is the best chili,” Sanders said. “I think it all depends on where you’re from and what you like, whether you prefer spicy food or not ... so we had stuff that kind of ran the gamut.”
“It’s fantastic,” said Dr. Glenn Johnson, a doctor of clinical religious counseling based out of Winterville who helped himself to a bowl from the Greenville Police Department. “I got a PhD in eating. I don’t go too spicy so this is pretty mild.”
Fire-Rescue Station No. 5 was crowned chili-makers in chief in the open competition while Dickinson Avenue Public House was voted the judges’ favorite in the professional sector.
Whether five alarm spicy or mellow and mild white chicken chili, Sanders said that the batches all went directly to a good cause.
“That’s something the United Way and Greenville Fire-Rescue stand for,” Sanders said. “Sometimes these things don’t go right back to the communities they serve but in this case it does.”
Cooper said he is grateful that the city has faith in United Way as “a good steward” of their funds. He said that moving forward he wants to continue fundraising efforts for the cause with ideas like a Sleep United drive, where people will experience homelessness for a night as a means of raising awareness and empathy, and a Diaper Depot to help people needing essential items for children.
This year’s total eclipsed last year’s which raised over $4,000. Auction items included a turkey fryer, a propane grill and sweet treats donated by local businesses.