New Years Eve…Chili Cook Off Supporting the Central Iowa Shelter!

A while back, I thought it would be a fun gathering to get the greatest culinary talents…(and those with the ability to throw a bunch of stuff into a pot) together for a Chili Cook Off to crown Central Iowa’s most prolific purveyor of the product.  Then my wife starts talking about a New Years party and the next thing you know, we’re planning. 

Then it dawned on me…(Light bulb appears over head).

You know, we’ll probably have enough chili left over to feed an army…so why don’t we find a worthy cause that will benefit from this bounty of food?

Bingo!  I began the search and have found The Central Iowa Shelter & Services.  So we’ve planned a little shindig that will bring together friends for good times, spark a little friendly culinary competition, and provide a meal for those that may find New Years to simply be another cold night without food.  Are you ready to make difference this New Years Eve?  Let’s get together and find a way to make it happen!

Here are the preliminary details.

  • Party at the Mitchell House on December 31st.  Feel free to arrive anytime after 6PM.
  • I’ll provide my address and phone when I receive your RSVP if you don’t already know where I live.
  • Kid friendly and monitored space available for putting down some littler ones as needed upstairs.
  • Chili Cook Off judged by a panel of novices with awards for best spicy and best mild chili…and an "open class" overall winner.  Winners will receive cheap and gaudy prizes.  Judging of the chili will happen at 9PM promptly.  Winners need not be present to win…but if not present (in bathroom or otherwise) your prizes will be distributed to other people that complain loudly.
  • We’ll be feeding 120 people.  That’s a lot but think about how many people a big pot of chili can feed! I’ll be coordinating a couple of large batch productions with a few folks that have the whole "Turkey Fryer with 7 gallon pot" set up so don’t be scared.  Try a best guess on serving size for an adult (think big brimmin’ bowl) then multiply to come up with your contribution size in "people servings"
  • The shelter serves dinner between 6:30PM-7:30PM.  Some of you who’ll volunteer to deliver and serve chili and fixins downtown will need to arrive at my house with your food…by 5:30PM or by 6PM at the shelter if heading down on your own (could possibly change based on amount of food that needs heating but close enough for now)…and will likely be done and heading back to my place by 7:45PM or so.  We’ll need about 6 people to serve.  I’m doing it…so we really need 5 now but more will be appreciated.
  • If you cannot come to the party and still want to provide food..PLEASE DO! You’re welcome to bring cold chili over to our house and we’ll warm it at the shelter!  If you want to make it in December and freeze it, please do! 
  • We’ll need bread, corn bread, crackers, butter, juice, and milk to go along with the meal.  Again, those details will be managed by clicking a link near the bottom of this page.

I‘m sure I’m missing something, but the place where you’ll RSVP, enter your details about coming to the party, assisting in some way, etc. can be accessed by clicking this link.

Please promote this as much as you can so we can make a big impact on quite a few people’s lives…and kick off their 2008 with new hope and a full belly.

Below is a personal message from Jean Brown, the Director of the Central Iowa Shelter.


Central Iowa Shelter & Services is an overnight
emergency shelter for adult men and women. 
Our mission is to "provide free shelter homeless
regardless of physical or emotional conditions, and to
facilitate their move toward self-sufficiency".
Guests can stay for 30-60 days in 68 men’s beds and 34
women’s beds.
There are no pre-requisites to stay and we admit people in
any condition that they may present.  There is never a charge to the guest
to stay.
Meals are provided, as are laundry and shower
Once a week Medical Clinic is here to provide services on
We also have 14 beds of Veteran’s Transitional housing and
those Vets can stay up to 2 years.
I have been the Director for going on 8 years now and it is
the most gratifying work I have done.  Educating the public to the facts of
homelessness is one of our biggest challenges.  I still hear comments like
"they just need to get a job".  The fact is most of our guests are experts
at getting jobs and many of them work.  However, they are not experts at
keeping jobs and for the most part are unable to make enough money to sustain
themselves and pay rent.
Many (over 60%) suffer from mental illness and when their
symptoms begin to manifest they lose everything they may have put together for
themselves, and end up back in shelter. I admire their fortitude in
the face of overwhelming odds, each time they pick themselves up and keep
Life is difficult, wages are low, rent is high, affordable
housing is lacking and the support systems that we all need are not available to
the disenfranchised of our community.
I leave here grateful every day that we have been able to
keep the doors open and be of some assistance to those who have no other means
to make it. The folks who serve meals here 365 days a year for over 16 years are
my heroes.  Without them we might not have been able to keep this effort up
for as long as we have.
CISS has a special function in serving some very special
people.  We continue to do that with the help of those who understand and
share their wealth and time.
The Universe smiles on CISS.
Jean Brown
Executive Director
Central Iowa Shelter &
205-15th St.
Des Moines, Ia. 50309
fax 515-883-1692



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