The sky was overcast, temperatures cooled and a slight breeze welcomed close to 130 individuals to the second annual Blue Jeans & BBQ Gala to benefit Combined Community Services in Warsaw Saturday evening.
Blue jeans and cowboy hats and a few cowboy boots highlighted the evening’s casual Western theme.
A grateful experience, filled with emotion, was presented by Angela Friend Soria following the dinner. Soria came to CCS approximately 15 years ago. Today she is a nurse and assistant director at an area nursing home.
Seeking CCS’s help after the birth of her second child, the mother of a newborn and a 2-year-old was at a loss. “It was a pretty low point in my life. I was single with only a high school education. I woke up one morning and said I would no longer live like this … living on welfare … I had nothing,” she told the guests.
Soria wanted to show her children education was important. She worked hard. She started at Ivy Tech in South Bend and in 2001 became an LP. In 2003, she then became a registered nurse. She didn’t qualify for many scholarships being offered to high school seniors, but she did receive some scholarships to continue her journey. She was approached by Ivy Tech in 2003 to apply for a scholarship at Indiana University. She applied and in 2005, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from IU.
“I can’t tell you what CCS Project Independent did for me and my children. I’d do just about anything for them … at the time I started, no one believed in me, not even myself.” Soria said her coordinator believed in her and helped her believe in herself. “I was able to finish and get my life in the right direction …”
Among those speaking to what CCS has done and is doing for them, was also Father Michael Bosden, an early board president. He noted the agency has come a long way from its original location on Market Street, Warsaw, to a new facility on Mariner Drive, and branching out from food, utility bill assistance and providing help with basic housing issues and even diapers. What he sees today is CCS helping people obtain jobs and job training, and even the gas to get to school. “You all have progressed 10 fold,” he said.
Current board president Robyn Palmer spoke about what CCS is all about. He noted that in the last year over 6,000 families were helped with food assistance, over 400 with utilities and about 140 go through self sufficiency programs in some form.
Executive director Steve Possell added, “A lot of what we do … (is) start off with the basic needs. We work with food, we’re serving 600 families a month with food; we’re working with utilities.” He noted the Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association and United Way assist with the utility program. “We work with people getting them jobs, and provide self sufficiency programs … we even had somebody graduate from law school.”
Possell noted a $1,000 donation can get a family through winter by feeding them and providing for their utility bills. Such a donation can also send someone to school. He pointed out CCS can tell individuals exactly where their dollar is spent as all money designated for a fund is spent on that fund.
Friendly Competition To Raise Funds
While there was horseshoe pitching, a corn hole toss, silent auction, photo opportunities, a live auction and even a chance to win custom made earrings through the purchase of a red bandana, the BBQ competition between three well known individuals was the highlight.
Competition, for a good cause, was heated for the best barbecue product between Dane Miller’s Team Biomet with Tanoori Lamb Shiek Kabobs, Gordon Clemons ribs and John Tucker of Maple Leave’s jerked duck wings with apricot bourbon sauce. Tucker retained his title by winning the competition for the second year in a row.
“I’m proud that we could do this, that people could embrace the cause,” said Tucker. “What a great event for the entire community … (to) help people less fortunate. I’d be willing to be a participant every year. It’s a way to give back to the community,” he stated, admitting he was surprised he won the barbecue competition.
Reportedly votes for the best barbecue could also be cast online with Tucker indicating that is where most of his votes were received. “We need to combine local fundraisers with mass media,” he noted, adding there are many who may want to attend, but had conflicts. The use of mass media can allow more to “contribute to a great cause.”
Bekah Bradley’s Band provided the entertainment for the evening singing country songs including a few of her own.