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Cooking For a Cause: Putting Talents to Good Use

We know of many charity events which get the help of famous celebrity or restaurant chefs to raise money for a cause, but it’s not everyday that we can find a gathering of ordinary people who put their cooking talents and love of cooking to good use.

About 70 local chef “celebrities” in Lac Cruces, NM wore their chef pants and coats and cooked up a feast last August 15, 2011 to raise funds for their favorite nursing home, the Mesilla Valley Hospice.

Men Who Cook, an annual culinary charity event organized by the Mesilla Valley Hospice Foundation, brought together a host of men in their community who were eager to join and volunteer to cook. They came up with a giant feast that served all kinds of dishes which catered to the different palates of the event’s guests. Last year, the event came up with over $66,000 in proceeds which went straight to the care of people who do not have the funds to pay for the hospice’s services, or do not have medical insurance.

Included in this year’s line-up of events, other than eating, is live entertainment; a quiet auction of jewelry, handmade quilts, gift certificates, food items and collector Kabuki dolls; a mini-contest for the most delightful dish and the station that was able to raise the most funds; and a memorial ceremony for their founder who passed away a year ago.

Ten-year-old Garrett Seward pitched- in with his uncle, father and grandfather, and contributed his own favorite pastry made of M&M’s, chocolate chips and oatmeal.

“I wanted to give a contribution to Mesilla Valley Hospice because they also help out other folks,” Garrett said. “My family and I felt that we should do something for our community.”

Move a bit to the east and you also have another Men Who Cook event in Tuscaloosa, Ala. with the same concept – over 100 community men from different walks of life who have shelved their brief cases and worn chef pants and coats to make a difference to their community. Sponsored by the organization Focus on Senior Citizens, the night is about fun and fellowship where cooking teams prepare special dishes for their friends, family and neighbors. They also have a health fair, a special awarding ceremony for the best table design and the most delicious food, as well as special prizes for the team that sells the most number of event tickets.

This is their 14th year of hosting the event, but they held last August 11’s affair on a much smaller scale than the previous years.

“Our funds were somewhat depleted by the storm response, and the outside contributions that we were supposed to use up for the cooking contest were more wisely directed to the needs of the victims of the recent April tornadoes in our are,” said Donna Easterwood, Focus on Senior Citizen’s director of the foster grandparent program.

The money that they will raise from this year’s Men Who Cook goes to the Tuscaloosa County’s Alzheimer’s Support Group, The Foster Grandparent Program and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs.

Such projects prove to be very inspiring, and would induce people to help out and make a difference in their own communities. Other than being able to do good for others, it’s been proven that helping out is one of the best things that we can do for our well-being. A recent study at the University of North Carolina has shown that members of communities with high degrees of volunteerism are physically and mentally healthier than those who don’t.

“People in great health are more likely to offer to help. In the same manner, volunteering also promotes good health,” says Peggy Thoits, Ph.D., a sociology professor at the university.