Spicin' things up: Chili for a cause

Rotaract raises about $1,900 for Haiti Shelter Boxes

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010

Local young adults spiced up the bottom floor of Resurrection Lutheran Church this week for a zesty chili cook-off fundraiser for Haiti.

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Joel Irwin / Juneau Empire
Joel Irwin / Juneau Empire

"It went well, but I think every event we do goes much better than we planned," said Karen Stewart, Capital City Rotaract member and president-elect. "So we're going to keep trying to get bigger and better, because we don't often realize how much we can get done as young people."

Capital City Rotaract's goal in organizing Wednesday's fundraiser was simple - raise enough money to buy one $1,000 Shelter Box for Haiti. Each box provides an extended family of up to 10 people with a tent and lifesaving equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless.

"It contains everything - sleeping bags, cooking supplies and stuff for clean water," said Rotaract member Julia Marie. "It's so in disaster situations, people have shelter, which is something we all take for granted - shelter and clean water."

Indeed, Rotaract exceeded its goal by raising about $1,900, with donations from the event still coming in as of Friday.

"It was a lot of word of mouth," Marie said in explanation of the more than 100 chili-eaters who attended. "Everybody in the group really branched out and asked a bunch of people."

Marie has only been with Rotaract since January, but, like most members, she believes the club is a good way to meet people, make connections and just give something back.

"It's really important for young people to get out there and be active in their communities, do community service," she said.

Stewart, who has been with Rotaract nine months, agreed. She said she always wanted to be more part of the community and to do service.

"I didn't even realize there was a group that was my age that did service," she said. "But I joined and fell in love with it and have made some awesome friends, and we do these awesome projects. ... It's really important that our age-group gets involved."

Karen Stewart's roommate, Amanda Behrends, current vice president and also president-elect, has been on Rotaract a year and a half now. She added that Rotaract teaches leadership and team-building skills.

"It gives young people in the community a chance to make a difference with other people who have a common goal," she said. "It's a good group of people. We have a lot of fun."

Both Stewart and Behrends will travel to Rotaract president-elect training in Seattle.

"It's going to be awesome to learn about Rotary and just meet Rotarians from all over the country," Behrends said. "(I'm excited to) see what they do, what's worked for them on different projects and what hasn't, get different ideas and meet other young people."

New member Meghan Grunow said she was sold on Rotaract after she attended the Fest for Breasts fundraiser in October.

"I joined that week. I love it," she said. "Everyone in the group cares about our community and wants to improve while having a total blast. It's pretty much the coolest club ever."

Capital City Rotaract was started around August 2007 and currently has somewhere between 20 and 30 members. What is it cooking up for the future? Events now in the works include a walk for multiple sclerosis in May and an adult prom in June.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.

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