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Kick it up a notch: United Way campaign kicks off with $167,048.05 already raised

Audrey Richardson serves chili to Darlene Peterson while working at the Century 21 Dickinson Realtors table with Scott Pearson and others during the annual United Way of the Bemidji Area’s Chili Cook-Off on Wednesday at the Sanford Center. Century 21 Dickinson Realtors served a white chili with walleye in it. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 3
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Pacesetter businesses raised a total of $167,048.05 for the United Way of Bemidji Area this year. The 2016 Pacesetter businesses are AmeriPride Services, Beltrami Electric Cooperative, First National Bank Bemidji, North Country Business Products, Potlatch, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, RiverWood Bank, Target, and United Parcel Service. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- The United Way of Bemidji Area hosted its 25th Annual Chili Cook-Off on Wednesday at the Sanford Center. This year’s event marks the kick off of the United Way’s 30th Annual campaign for the community, officials said in a release.

A total of 32 cooks lined the parameter of the Sanford Center ballroom, serving a variety of chili dishes. About 400 people attended the afternoon event, officials said.

During the program, Doug and Kim Williams, United Way Campaign Chairs, announced the total amount raised to-date by United Way’s nine Pacesetter businesses, who set set the pace for United Way’s campaign by conducting workplace campaigns early. Together, pacesetter businesses raised a total of $167,048.05 for the United Way of Bemidji Area. The amount is close to 40 percent of the United Way’s overall campaign goal of $420,000 for this year, officials said.

The 2016 Pacesetter businesses are AmeriPride Services, Beltrami Electric Cooperative, First National Bank Bemidji, North Country Business Products, Potlatch, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, RiverWood Bank, Target and United Parcel Service.

This year’s five celebrity Chili Cook-Off judges were Nate Mathews, city of Bemidji; Marla Patrias, BSU Foundation; Jon Labraaten, Labraaten State Farm; Mike Cronin, the Sanford Center; and Betty Halverson, Community Representative. They judged the 32 chili recipes based on the aroma, taste, texture, appearance and creativity.

First-place awards to chili cooks were given in various categories:

Celebrity Division Chili: Paul Bunyan Broadcasting (fourth year in a row)

Business Division Chili: Dermatology Professionals

Restaurant Division Chili: Harmony Foods

Corporate Division Chili: North Central Door Co.

Non-Profit Division Chili: First Call for Help 2-1-1

Most Creative Chili Cook Award: Grimes Realty

Best Presentation Award: Minnesota Chippewa Tribe

Best Name Award: Counselor Realty “Grumpy Old Men”

Taster’s Choice: Lutheran Social Services

Best Overall Chili Award: Northern Dental Access Center

The United Way campaign for the community will run through Oct. 31. Funds raised are invested in Bemidji area non-profit agencies and programs “that address the root-causes of the most serious human needs in our community and create real, lasting change in people’s lives.”

For more information about the United Way, the campaign or to make a donation, call (218) 444-8929 or visit the United Way’s website www.unitedwaybemidji.org.

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