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calling all cooks for CASA
by Audrey Poff

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Second Judicial District is calling all chili cooks to help make a new family-friendly fundraising event a success this spring.

CASA will host its first Carnival and Chili Cook-Off on April 1, and organizers are recruiting teams to volunteer for the community chili cooking competition. The organization’s new event will replace its annual Cowboy Up for CASA fundraiser, which was a successful evening event geared toward adults.

CASA’s mission is to recruit, train and support court appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children in the foster care system until they reach safe and permanent homes. The nonprofit organization serves abused and neglected children in Craighead, Greene, Clay, Poinsett and Mississippi counties.

“Last year, we served 327 children in foster care,” said Jeremy Biggs, who has served as executive director of CASA of the Second Judicial District since December. “Currently, there are 610 total children in foster care in the Second Judicial District.”

The event is significant to the organization because it will serve as CASA’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“Proceeds are used for a variety of things from rent, utilities, marketing materials, advertising, supplies, but mostly it is used to recruit new volunteer advocates throughout Northeast Arkansas,” said Biggs.

“We just wanted to bring something new to the community,” said CASA board president Pam Taylor, who is currently serving her sixth year on the board and third as president. “This would have been the ninth year for Cowboy Up for CASA. It was a great event and it got better and better every year, but we thought it might be good to do something different and involve kids. …

“This will be a kid-friendly event, and there will be a lot of things for kids to do this year. Several board members felt like it was time to get kids involved, because that is what we are about - kids. I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to be a great event.”

The family-friendly event will include music, games, face painting, inflatables and chili prepared by members of the community. Presented by Upper Crust Pizza Co., the CASA Carnival and Chili Cook-Off will be held April 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the new Nettleton Baptist Church, the former NEA District Fairgrounds located at 7001 E. Johnson Ave. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 12.

For more information or to register a chili team, call 935-1099 or email jeremy.biggs@neacasa.org. Registration is $150 per team.