Thanks for a great United Way kickoff

Published 1:19 am Monday, September 3, 2007

The Third Annual Jambalaya Cook-off kicked off the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou campaign with its usual spice and excitement. The Miss-Lou version of “build a field and they will come” is “cook a good meal and they will come back — every time.”

Many individuals and groups made the event happen and should be thanked publicly. Kathy Stephens, United Way executive director, worked tirelessly, ably assisted by the other members of the staff, Brenda Cantu, Tommy Jackson, and Pauline Rogers. Rosco and Terri from 95 Country and the Section 8 Band kept the crowds entertained. United Way board members and volunteers were everywhere, doing whatever needed doing.

The event owes its primary success to the twelve super teams who arrived at 5:30 a.m. and chopped, boiled and grilled in the August heat to provide enough jambalaya to serve over 2,000 hungry folks. The competition was fierce, both for the most spirited booth and the most delicious jambalaya. The teams outdid themselves with elaborate booth designs in keeping with the theme “Secret Agents of Change.” The fourteen judges had to make tough decisions and took their jobs very seriously.

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We welcomed three new cooking teams, the Alcorn School of Nursing, Britton & Koontz bank, and the Natchez Council on Aging. It was especially rewarding to see the involvement of the young nursing students. When the Council on Aging took the Best Jambalaya cooking trophy, the team and the audience went wild! COA and another United Way program, the Coalition for Youth and Children, did triple duty, cooking outside and decorating both cooking and agency booths.

Veteran teams included Callon Petroleum (second place), the Isle of Capri (third), Community Hospital, Natchez Regional Hospital, Concordia Bank, Miss. River Corp., Slough Daddy’s and the Markets (winner of the Spirit Award). In the public view, all the teams were winners. There were no leftovers when the event ended.

United Way raises funds to support the Miss-Lou area. The agency displays reminded us how important each one is to supporting those in need in our community. The Natchez-Adams Schools earned the Spirit prize for their Accelerated Reading Program. Other UW supported agencies represented were Adams County 4-H, Adams County Youth Court, CASA, Concordia 4-H, Girls Scouts, Sunshine Services, Concordia Council on Aging, Feed the Hungry, Community Food Pantry, Guardian Sexual Assault Program, The Guardian Shelter, Natchez Council on Aging, Pleasant Acre Day School, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities Counseling Center and Habitat for Humanity.

Finally, thanks to Walter Tipton and the terrific staff at the Natchez Convention Center. They moved tables, hung signs, provided last-minute support, stayed calm and kept us calm. Natchez is lucky to have Andrea, Mary, Clarence and Bobby, and we thank them for their patience and help. They are the unsung heroes of every event at the center.

MARIA BOWSER is board chair of United Way.