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Top cooks donate winnings to food bank
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The top two winners in the recent chili cook-off benefit for Second Harvest Food Bank did not bring home their prizes.

Instead, first place finisher Jerry Monares and runner-up Chuck Hoagland both donated their winnings to the Manteca-based nonprofit organization. The $300 from Monares and $150 from Hoagland helped bring the total proceeds from Saturday’s event to nearly $10,000.

Monares kept the $100 he won for being the recipient of the People’s Choice Award. Third place, which came with a $75 cash prize, went to Chuck Goodwin.

“It was beautiful. Oh, my gosh, it was a blessing. It was just awesome,” said an overwhelmed Second Harvest director Mike Mallory of the way the community responded to this benefit for the food bank.

“It showed the community stepping up for a great cause,” said Mallory as he rattled off a laundry list of groups, individuals and businesses that made it all happen.

Manteca’s Interim Fire Chief Kirk Waters and some of his men, for example, helped set up tables in the morning and later helped put away everything later in the evening at the Manteca Senior Center where the event was held, Mallory said. Ditto with the large number of volunteers from Woodbridge at Dell Webb who “sold raffle tickets, baked goods, sold the beverages and came up with raffle prizes,” PG&E, the board members of Second Harvest plus “a ton of people,” he said.

“Without them we could not have done that. I was very pleased,” Mallory said.

“It’s just amazing. I was just blown away by the people. Everyone had a great time – the kids, the parents all had a good time. The raffle prizes were great, but more importantly, it was a family event,” Mallory said.

“People were smiling, laughing, joking, having a good time. That’s what made it fun. It was just a fun thing,” he said.

With the surprising success of the first-ever chili cook-off fund-raiser, Second Harvest is already looking at a larger venue next year. People are already asking about taking part in the next cook-off, Mallory said.

“We’ve already outgrown (the Senior Center). We need a bigger place next year. We need more room to move around and more seating. We want to make (the venue) a little bit bigger so more people will attend and enjoy it,” he said.

They also plan to “ratchet it up a bit each year” and are already planning to have more decorations next year “to make it a fun and festive event.”

Since they only had six weeks to prepare for this first chili cook-off, they did not have much time to get some of these things done, Mallory said.

Despite this short notice, this first ever cooking competition drew a total of 30 contestants. Among the contestants were Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum, Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Linda Abeldt, Agape Villages Foster Home coordinator JoAnn Beattie, Kevin Anderson of the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Union, and three groups from the Manteca City Fire Department.

“This is going to be our signature fund-raising event every year,” Mallory said of the chili cook-off.

Second Harvest’s other fund-raisers during the year include the Turkeys R Us which has been a major source of donations during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a stint at the annual Dell’Osso Farms Halloween attraction. Mallory said Second Harvest is currently working with Dell’Osso Farms on another fund-raising idea for Halloween. He said there are also other new events coming up to benefit Second Harvest. These include a car show put together by a car club that is “really a turkey drive” since the admission ticket to the event will be a turkey donation, and a Run for Hunger.

Second Harvest coordinator Kerry Tapia said proceeds came from the sale of raffle tickets, entry fees and the silent auctions.

“Everything we had on the silent auctions and raffle were all donated,” Tapia said.