In what they hope will become an annual tradition, Big Bear Valley's utilities competed in a challenge that concluded Nov. 20 to see who could collect the most food for charity. The participants succeeded in collecting more than 3,000 cans and items of food.
Bear Valley Electric Service, the Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power, Big Bear City Community Services District and Charter Communications competed in the food drive beginning Oct. 1. The drive ended last week with an evening of activities at Saint Joseph's Catholic Church. The final night of the competition was open to members of the public who brought at least five cans of food to donate and included a couple of other contests.
"We thought we'd have the event also include a chili cook-off and Ping-Pong, just to make it fun," said Mary Huether, an office assistant with Bear Valley Electric Service who helped organize the competition. "Instead of just having an event where we announced a winner, who's going to want to come to that?"
Bear Valley Electric won the contest for most food collected, with 1,873 items. Second place went to the DWP with 788 items.
DWP pumping technician Mike Whalen said he thought the food drive, with a Ping-Pong showdown and chili cook off on the side was a great idea. "It helps out the community," Whalen said. "And it's the first year they're doing it, so next year I think it will be way more organized, and more stuff for kids."
Of the three contests, Whalen predicted that the DWP had the best chance of the winning the Ping-Pong competition. He turned out to be right. Dave Emig and Steve Wilson of the DWP were the Ping-Pong champions, taking home the coveted golden glitter paddle.
Bear Valley Electric's Julie Roberts won the chili cook-off for her chipotle smoked chicken chili. Julie's husband, Jack, was also one of the nine entrants in the chili cook-off, meaning the contest was stacked in favor of the Roberts family, if not in favor of a specific utility, as Jack works for the DWP.
Employees from the other utilities involved in the competition agreed that it was a fun way to give back, as well as a good networking opportunity.
"It's good camaraderie, you know, with the other utilities," said Neal Neiman, a construction coordinator with Charter Communications. "You kind of get to know each other, because you usually just talk to them on the phone."
The only representative of Big Bear City CSD at the Ping-Pong chili challenge was water department foreman Greg Ricketts.
"It was the first year, so it was kind of hard to get people into it," Ricketts said, adding that CSD employees already participated in another food drive and another chili cook off. "So they got kind of burned out, but it was good. We brought a lot of cans in."
CSD contributed over 300 food items for the competition between the utilities. Ricketts said now that he's seen everything the food drive involves, he'll do more to promote it next year.
"I just hope it grows every year," Ricketts said. "It's good that the community can see that the utilities do things like this and really care and really try to help out the community, you know, that we're not just there to take your money every month, that we really are people that try to help out this community."
Contact reporter Jonathan Riley via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BBGrizzlyJon.
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