Eagles cooking up ways to help Children in Need

Terlingua may have its International Chili Championship and Nebraska its World Chili Cookoff Championship, but when it comes to warming the hearts of West Texans, nothing beats a bowl of chili from the Fraternal Order of Eagles Annual Chili Cook-off.The Fraternal Order of Eagles will pull out its well-seasoned cast-iron pots and gather its secret stash of heated spices to host its 10th Annual Chili Cook-off Jan. 28, benefitting the West Texas Centers Children-In-Need Fund.Cooking begins at 8 a.m. and judging at 11:30 a.m. at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 3188 Lodge, 703 West Third St. in Big Spring.“I can’t believe it’s here already,” said West Texas Centers Chief Operating Officer Landon Sturdivant. He is the driving force behind the cook-off and has directed it into one of the more heavily attended chili cook-offs in West Texas — partly because of his organizational skills, ability to raise money and his love for Texas chili.Sturdivant and his wife, Cindy, spend many weekends traveling the country, participating and visiting chili cook-offs in other regions and bringing back the best of each event. “I guess you could call it research,” Sturdivant said laughingly.In its 10 years, the Fraternal Order of Eagles piles more money into the Children in Need fund and keeps it going.“I don’t know how we would do it without the Eagles,” West Texas Centers CEO Shelley Smith said. Last year, the Eagles raised more than $11,000 for the fund which provided Christmas for 134 children, school supplies for 192 children and also assisted with football, baseball and camp registrations, Smith said.“We also helped with purchasing caps and gowns for graduation, music lessons, theater camp, science fair entry and swimming lessons,” Smith said. “These are all tools that help our children boost their self-esteem.”West Texas Centers is the state-designated center serving people and their families with mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities in rural West Texas. The Children in Need Fund was established in 2001 to assist families and adolescents receiving mental health services with limited resources. The fund helps families with costs outside the ordinary day-to-day living expenses.“The Children in Need fund has come to depend on the Fraternal Eagles Chili Cook-off,” Smith said. “We can do so many things for our kids because of their willingness to put in the long hours planning and carrying out the chili cook-off. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so much fun. Everyone enjoys themselves so much.”Teams are limited to two people and pay an entry fee of $10 per team. Those wanting to eat, pay $5. For more information, call Sturdivant at 432 264-3247 or landon.sturdivant@wtcmhmr.orgFirst-time chili cooks are welcome, he said.