By Madison Fisler Lewis
Nov. 25, 2014. With the cold weather well underway, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the holiday fun with warm houses, hot chocolate and hot meals. But for some of our High Country neighbors, keeping their families warm and fed this winter is a struggle. On Dec. 6, Appalachian Mountain Brewery will host a Chili Cook Off starting at 6 p.m. to benefit the Hunger and Health Coalition to raise money to ensure that everyone can have a warm and happy holiday.
“We did a chili cook off before in February, and it was incredibly successful,” said Jessica Collins of AMB. “Elizabeth and I met a few months ago and we thought it would a really good idea to raise money together for the Hunger and Health Coalition, so two months ago we started planning. We have never worked with the Hunger and Health Coalition before and it is something that we have always wanted to do.”
Elizabeth Young, the director for the Hunger and Health Coalition, said that this time of year, there is tremendous need in the High Country for the programs that the nonprofit organization offers to the community.
“We have seen a tremendous increase in client needs this winter,” Young said. “We have seen some job growth, but it hasn’t translated into high pay amounts. People are sometimes working double and not receiving as much money as they used to. While we are seeing a decrease in unemployment, we are still seeing problems with underemployment and people need help. Everybody loves chili, especially in the winter, so we thought this was a great idea for a fundraiser.”
The money raised through the fundraiser will benefit the organization’s food programs.
“It really depends on where we need the funds at the time, but it will likely go directly toward our food programs,” Young said. “We are establishing a satellite office as well. There is tremendous need for our services in the western part of the county, and we want a satellite office out there so people don’t have to spend their money on gas to get to us. We are also expanding our backpack programs and snack bag programs for kids. We have a free pharmacy as well.”
The chili cook off will serve as a competition, with four categories: traditional, beer-infused, spicy and vegetarian.
“There are four winners in each category,” Collins said. “We will have judges and people can have a taste of all of the chilis. At the end, people can make donations of $5, $20, whatever they want. No admission will be charged for this event, it is entirely donation based. The last time we did this in February it was more successful than I could even imagine. The only other thing we charge for is a $10 entry fee if you want to enter chili into the competition.”
During the chili cook off competition, the bar will be open serving all of the delicious, locally brewed beers that the brewery has come to be known for. Live music will be provided by Black Mountain revival.
Anyone in the community is welcome to register for the competition for a shot at the title, and to help raise money for a good cause. Registration forms can be obtained at Appalachian Mountain Brewery and at the Hunger and Health Coalition. Completed forms should be brought to Jessica Collins at Appalachian Mountain Brewery, along with the $10 registration fee. Registration will be open until Dec. 3.
“Anyone who wants to register is welcome to,” Collins said. “We are hoping this event will be even bigger than the last one. We will have live music and a small live auction with local restaurant gift certificates, a vacation stay and other things all donated by local businesses.”
“We have an incredibly generous community,” said Young. “There is a ton of need in Watauga County, we are one of the poorest counties in the state, but we are very fortunate to have such a generous community to support us.”
The fundraising initiatives of Appalachian Mountain Brewery will come as no surprise to the community. The brewery has done more than its fair share of fundraising and community support projects in the past.
“We are all about the community,” Collins said. “That is what [the owner] Sean [Spiegelman] wanted this business to be about. Not just to make good beer, but to give back to the community so that is what we thrive on. That is part of what has made us so popular with the community. I think giving is very contagious. People see what we do, and we don’t just talk about it, we do it, and that says a lot about our company as a whole.”