Eighty-two associates from the Houston Walmart Supercenter raised ,000 for this year's Chili Cook Off. The associates walked more than 500 hours in their free time to earn the donation from the Walmart Corporation.

The 10th annual chili event to raise funds for Hospice of Care raised nearly $48,000 for the organization that provides end of life and grief support care for patients and their families in Texas County and the surrounding area.

The Nov. 5 Chili Cook Off — hosted by the Texas County Memorial Hospital Healthcare Foundation — brought in $47,862 through sponsorships, admission and auctions. It was held inside the community building at the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Fairgrounds.

The team from the Houston Walmart Supercenter raised $6,939 for the cause. A majority came from 82 associates who volunteered to walk more than 500 miles to raise $5,000 from the Walmart Corporation. Walmart was one of 14 teams who participated and through fundraising brought in $24,897, which represented more than half of the funds raised.

All of the funds benefit TCMH Hospice of Care, which provides end of life and grief support care for patients and their families in Texas County and the surrounding area.

Each five member cook off team adopted a theme, team name and set about raising funds for their team earlier in the year through casual days at work, yard sales, raffles, bake sales and other means.

Following the Walmart team in fundraising was “Glory Bowl,” the TCMH emergency medical services team. The group raised $3,907. “Team Jayson,” a Cabool-based team in memory of Jayson Gentry, raised $3,338 for third place.

About 300 people attended the annual event. Deep Fried Squirrel, a Rogersville-based bluegrass band, played music throughout the day. Twenty-one different chili recipes — ranging from spicy to white and even shrimp — were available for those in attendance to sample.

A team of three judged the chili: Earleen Holder of Progressive Ozark Bank, Shari McCallister from D&L Florist and Dr. Cory Offutt of TCMH.

Judges Choice and first place went to “Under the Sea-Mermaid Couture,” the TCMH obstetrics department. Second place was Security Bank of the Ozarks’ “The Mad Hatter’s Chili Party.” Third place was awarded to “Happy Feet” of the Raymondville United Methodist Church.

“Grid Iron Gang,” the TCMH medical surgical department, won the spicy category.

Winning the booth decorating competition was “Under the Sea-Mermaid Couture” with a booth laden with fish, octopi and jellyfish. The OB department nurses dressed as mermaids, and Dr. Christopher Baldwin of TCMH dressed as Poseidon.

Security Bank of the Ozarks sported Alice in Wonderland costumes and chili condiments that said “drink me” or “eat me” to place second in booth decorations. The TCMH medical surgical department’s “Grid Iron Gang” wore old-fashioned prison costumes, beards and overalls with an “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” theme to win the third prize for decorations.

The people’s choice award as well as the TCMH employee’s selection award went to “Under the Sea-Mermaid Couture.” Second was “Happy Feet,” followed by “Grid Iron Gang.”

David Johnson, of Sullivan, won the auction for the Kawasaki-brand utility vehicle. Pat Bryant, of Mountain Grove, won the shotgun.

As part of the day’s festivities, Gentry recognized Holder and Progressive Ozark Bank for sponsoring the Chili Cook Off since the event’s inception in 2006. Holder has also worked as a judge at the competition for several years.

Gentry presented Holder with a plaque in recognition of the bank’s support.

Russ Stigall, pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston, served as master of ceremonies for the event, handing out awards and making announcements throughout the day.

Dr. Jonathan Beers, medical director for TCMH Hospice of Care, praised the TCMH hospice team for providing services that rival hospice agencies in larger, metropolitan areas.

Jake Scheets donated his time to auctioneer the live auction portion. Silent auctions also were available.

The cook off raised $36,060 in cash donations and $11,802 in in-kind donations. All proceeds raised by the Chili Cook Off support Hospice of Care and remain in Texas County to benefit area residents.

Donations came in the form of sponsorships by area businesses for chili teams, corporate and entertainment sponsorships, cash donations and donations of items for the auctions. The foundation has a designated “Hospice Fund” where the cook off funds and other donations to Hospice of Care are held.

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