Chilifest helps residents beat cold snap while supporting local programs

Last week’s 19th annual Chilifest was a chance to get some good food to support a good cause.

The annual event at the Fergus Legion helps warm local hearts while helping the Community Resource Centre of North and Centre Wellington raise funds to help others in the area.

The venue was set up for a large crowd and numerous local “celebrity” servers were scheduled to take part, including Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott, Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton and Centre Wellington CAO Andy Goldie.

Just prior to the event on Feb. 12,  community resource centre executive director Ron MacKinnon explained, “This is our 19th year of Chilifest. All the funds go to our outreach and support program, which works with those most in need within the community.

“Because we raise funds here, we are able to operate programs for families including the income tax program. We are able to assist 150 families in Centre Wellington and Wellington North at Christmas time, along with the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.”

MacKinnon said the organization is also able to provide backpacks and school supplies for children of low income families.

“This means that at the beginning of school, they start on the same playing field as their classmates,” he said.

“And our staff are great advocates for people struggling in the community.”

MacKinnon said if the service is not offered by the community resource centre “we make certain to provide a referral to an organization which does – so as to not duplicate services.” He used the example of the centre not providing a food bank, because the Centre Wellington Food Bank already exists.

He added that if someone needs legal advice, “we refer them to a legal clinic so they can get that advice.”

MacKinnon said “people can come to the community resource centre, which offers one place which can direct them to all the right places to get the help they need.”

Chilifest is the centre’s only fundraiser, MacKinnon said. To make the event run smoothly, he noted, there is a small army of volunteers.

“The community really steps up to help. We have tons of volunteers helping out – we couldn’t do it without them.”

He explained there are people who volunteer to deliver the chili dinners to over 200 people who order meals.

“And there is a great crew which helps to (make) the chili. It takes two days to cook it all.”

He added the event at the Legion includes prizes donated by local businesses.

“It’s fantastic and Chilifest seems to be well-recieved by the community,” said MacKinnon. “It’s not so much a fundraiser for us, but a community event, where people can go to meet their neighbours and fellow businesspeople … it’s a great day.”