Students ran through the Auburn Wesley Foundation building making lemonade, replenishing plates with cookies and chatting with guests as they milled about the main tasting room on Tuesday.
The AWF opened its doors on Nov. 14 to community members as churches and local leaders competed for the chance to claim victory for the best chili in Auburn.
The event was a fundraiser for the foundation, which hosts weekly worship, dinner and bible study events for college students. In addition to weekly ministry, the foundation also gives students opportunities to serve in the community through local projects, as well as national and international mission trips.
Twelve teams competed in the chili cook-off. Some were churches, like Auburn United Methodist Church, Grace United Methodist Church and Eclectic United Methodist Church, and some were local leaders and departments like the Lee County Commission, the Auburn Police Division and the Auburn Fire Department.
Attendees voted by placing money into the buckets located at each competitor's table. The table with the most money at the end of the night was declared the winner.
Auburn UMC's Dr. Cory Smith won the overall cook-off competition and was presented with one of three special award plaques for his achievements.
The Best Dressed Award went to the Auburn UMC's Children's Ministries, who were decked out in sombreros and ponchos, representing their south of the border chili.
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The Taster's Choice Award, voted on by all chefs, went to Tony Jeck and family from Quad W Ministries. His boilermaker chili combined spicy sausage, beer and sprinkled goat cheese for a distinct taste.
"This is really fun — it is our first time doing something like this," Jeck said. "We are really surprised and excited by the turnout. We had the firemen here, the police were here — in a good way!"
Jeck said his award will be on display in his office all year, and he encouraged students to come view his achievement of Wesley bragging rights.
Items in the silent auction were donated by a variety of local businesses, including restaurants, boutiques and bookstores. Amsterdam Cafe, Charming Oaks, J&M, STAMP, Toomer's Drugs and Wrapsody were among the few that donated.
Some of the items featured in the auction were books on biblical history, various Auburn merchandise like hats and shirts, as well as local artwork done by Auburn residents.
AWF raised a total of $3,000 between the cook-off and silent auction, according to Administrative Director Patricia Stevenson.
The AWF begun as a college ministry program in 1937 by Auburn UMC, has been serving the community for 80 years.
David Goolsby, director and campus minister, has been with the Foundation since 1983 and said that he is so grateful for the turnout from the community and the support shown for the foundation.
The event included students and community members, as well as present and former board members and staff of the foundation. It was a night full of food, fun and fellowship.
"I love the Wesley Foundation," said Mary Beth Humphrey, sophomore in nutrition. "It has given me a loving community of people that are so supportive, and I know I can always count on them. This event was a great way to raise money for our mission trips, and a great break from the hectic week of studying."
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