United Way kicks off fundraising campaign

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Jambalaya was on Thursday&8217;s lunch menu, and diners had choices. Teams from around the area served up the spicy dish in a competition to benefit the kick-off of United Way&8217;s fundraising season.

Secret judges tasted and voted on food, decorations and team spirit.

The Concordia Bank team won first place in the cooking category, taking home a large pot on a pedestal as a trophy.

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The team&8217;s chef and the branch manager at the Monterey bank, Tommy Millican, said their recipe included sausage, chicken, pork, green, yellow and red bell peppers, green, red and white onions and a little parsley.

&8220;We thought about it a good while, and we decided we needed something colorful,&8221; Millican said. &8220;We had some special ingredients, but we keep the recipe locked in our vault,&8221; he joked.

The Natchez Markets and Slough Daddy&8217;s came in second and third.

The Natchez Market won the cooking team spirit award, and the teams from Natchez-Adams County School District and the Sunshine Shelter tied for the agency spirit award.

Mike Halley, meat and bakery director at The Markets, scooped out huge spoonfuls of jambalaya from a large cauldron.

The Markets team was last year&8217;s winner, but winning was only a small part of the experience, Halley said.

&8220;It&8217;s not all about that,&8221; he said. &8220;We&8217;re just here to celebrate the United Way starting out. If we win, it&8217;s just a bonus.&8221;

Each team had to be able to serve a minimum of 100 people after every team ran out of food early last year.

This year, there was plenty to go around.

Most teams cooked for 200 or 300 people.

Karen Tutor and her co-workers, who work at the school district main office, said she thought the jambalaya was wonderful.

&8220;We came too late last year, so we were early this year,&8221; Tutor said. &8220;It&8217;s a very different kind of lunch break.&8221;

Natchez resident Skip Higgins said he came to support the United Way. After Hurricane Katrina devastated his Bay St. Louis home, he traveled around the South and finally bought a house in Natchez in May.

Along with FEMA and state assistance, he got a lot of help from volunteer and faith-based organizations.

&8220;This is the first time in a while I&8217;ve been on the other end,&8221; Higgins said. &8220;After Katrina, I was on the receiving end, and now I&8217;m back on the giving end.&8221;