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Campaign Launches!


The United Way of Bemidji Area hosted its 27th Annual Chili Cook-Off on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at The Sanford Center. This year’s event marks the kick off of the United Way’s 32nd Annual campaign for the community.  Twenty-five cooks lined the parameter of the Sanford Center Ballroom, serving a variety of chili. With close to 400 people in attendance, the event raised money for this year’s campaign.

During the program, Brian & Leah Ophus, United Way Campaign Chairs, announced the total amount raised to-date by United Way’s pacesetter businesses. Pacesetter businesses set the pace for United Way’s campaign by conducting their workplace campaigns early. Together, pacesetter businesses raised a total of $170,389 for the United Way of Bemidji Area. This amount is close to 35% of the United Way’s overall campaign goal of $520,000.

The 2018 Pacesetter businesses are AmeriPride Services, Beltrami Electric Cooperative, First National Bank Bemidji, Norbord, Potlatch Deltic, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, RiverWood Bank, Target, and United Parcel Service (UPS).

This year’s five celebrity Chili Cook-Off judges were Annie Butler Ricks of Headwaters Science Center, Jeff Peltier of Riverwood Bank, Chris Vacek from RP Broadcasting, Tim Flathers from HRDC, and Jesse Grant from Bemidji State University. They judged the twenty-five chili recipes based on the aroma, taste, texture, appearance and creativity.

Awards to chili cooks were given in various categories:

1st Place Celebrity Division Chili:  Paul Bunyan Broadcasting

1st Place Business Division Chili:  Counselor Realty

1st Place Restaurant Division Chili:  Sanford Center

1st Place Corporate Division Chili:  Eldercare/Havenwood

1st Place Non-Profit Division Chili:  Evergreen Youth and Family Services

Most Creative Chili Cook Award:  Northwest Minnesota Foundation

Best Presentation Award:  MN Chippewa Tribe

Best Name Award:  Counselor Realty – Chili So Hot it will make your hair curl

Taster’s Choice:  Northwest Minnesota Foundation

Best Overall Chili Award:  Red Cedar Grill – Palace Casino Hotel

The United Way campaign for the community will run through October 31, 2018.  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, in the areas of:  Education – helping children, youth and adults achieve their full potential; Income – promoting financial stability increasing self-sufficiency; and, Health – improving people's health and social well-being, and providing basic needs/crisis emergency services.

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