Despite cold windy conditions the city of East Lansing’s Winter Bowl Soup & Chili cook off attracted a crowd of nearly 3,000 Sunday afternoon.
“Attendance was up this year; last year we estimated 2,500 people and this year we estimate that 3,000 people went through the chili tent,” said City of East Lansing Communications Coordinator Mikell Frey. “Overall the event went well, we received lots of positive feedback.”
Steps away from Santa and Mrs. Clause, crowds of chili tasters supported the charities with booths set up at the event inside the Marriot. Charities included a coat drive supporting Advent House, a letter drive for service men and women overseas, and a giving tree supporting the Boy & Girls Club of Lansing.
The giving tree, run by Silver & Beyond store owner and avid Boys and Girls Club volunteer Siham Baladi , has been at tradition at the event since the store opened in 2004.
“The giving tree has become so popular, customers ask about it when they come in all the time—all year round, so how can I not do it the following year when I see the response from the community?” Baladi said.
Set up at a table outside the store, the giving tree has tags with names and ages of children and a item they have requested for Christmas. Tags are chosen by the public and the gifts are dropped off to the Silver & Beyond store throughout the holiday season before being picked up by the Boys & Girls Club of Lansing and distributed to the children at the club’s holiday party.
“We always have a great turnout at this event,” Sandra Kowalk-Thompson Boys & Girls Clubs director of development said. “There are a lot of kids who don’t have anyone asking them what they want for Christmas or don’t get any gifts at all or those who will get socks and cereal but want a Batman toy and so it’s nice to see that dynamic play out too.”
Kowalk-Thompson and Baladi work together to start planning for the event in September.
“Planning that we do is worth it, people feel like when they have everything they want, it’s good to share and the Boys & Girls Club helps a lot of people, and they’re overwhelmed by all the people that need help this year,” Baladi said.
From chili, to chestnuts, to cocoa, to charity; this year Winter Bowl Soup & Chili cook-off served up another helping of success.
“We’re glad charity is such a great part of this event,” Frey said. “It is just a good thing during this holiday season to have an opportunity for people to give back because it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the the commercial aspects of the season.”