SafeHouse hosts first ‘Southern Cast Iron Showdown’

By ERIKA BIBBS / Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – SafeHouse of Shelby County hosted its first ‘Southern Cast Iron Showdown’ on April 22 at Summer Classics from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The 27-year-old nonprofit offers domestic and sexual violence response and prevention programs for Shelby, Coosa and Clay counties.

Dotti Bailey serves as the executive director and has been with the program since 2013. Her previous position was serving as the organization’s program director.  She shared how the event got started.

“It was an effort between our board of directors and volunteers,” Bailey said. “They wanted to have a signature event; something that we could have in Shelby County to get information out about SafeHouse, but also involve the community in what we’re doing. The Southern Cast Iron Showdown was an effort to get together some teams that wanted to cook some good southern food and also have an opportunity to benefit SafeHouse and the people that we serve.”

Valencia Moss, SafeHouse community outreach and volunteer coordinator, said the volunteers helped make the cast iron showdown possible. One of the many volunteers there was Janice Johnson. She has been volunteering with SafeHouse for nine months.  Johnson tutors the children at the shelter after school two to three times per week. Her favorite dish was the fried-corn, and she said she expects the event to be bigger and better next year with more participants.

The outdoor cooking competition attracted more than 100 people in the community and surrounding areas.  Cynthia Helms from the Meadowbrook community was in attendance.  She found out about the event through a friend. Helm’s favorite dish from the cook-off was the chicken and waffles, which was prepared by the Regions Bank team.

“It was very tasty, and it was very unique,” she said.

She also said that she would come back for next year’s cook-off and gave a very positive review about the event overall.

“It was very family-friendly and the live band was terrific,” Helms said. “The variety of menus was delightful and it involved the people who attended. Everyone got to cast their votes, and it was really engaging with the community. It was a worthy cause, too.”

John Rosser and his family came from Jefferson County to support the event.

“We came down because our family wanted just to come and hang out and try something new,” Rosser said. “It was great. Great food, great entertainment and I would recommend it next year for anybody to come out. And I don’t want break anybody’s heart, but it was a toss up between the spicy Bar-B-Q sliders and the chicken and waffles. Loved them!”

There was live entertainment from the Thomas Henry Band and the crowd loved their version of “Mustang Sally.” The band has performed at some of SafeHouse’s events in the past. The band’s lead singer, Ben Guthrie, said his mother has volunteered with SafeHouse for years. Guthrie described the band’s sound as southern rock blues. Guthrie said he is pretty sure the band will be back for next year’s cook-off.

The event raised more than $15,000 and the proceeds will support client services such as counseling, helping with permanent housing and the children’ s summer program. A total number of 15 sponsors participated helped make the event possible.

Participants of the competition were placed into teams and competed in four food categories: sweets, meats, fixin’s and dough. The winners were determined by judges.  In the sweets category, first place went to AllSouth Appliance for their maple bacon doughnuts; second place went SafeHouse of Shelby County Sexual Assault Advocates for their s’mores.

In the meats category, first place went to Regions Bank for their chicken and waffles; second place went to attorney Tim Smith for his Bar-B-Q sliders and third place went to Alabama Power for their white chicken chili. In the fixin’s category, first place went PYT SafeHouse Staff with their fried corn.

Guests sampled all of the entries and voted for the People’s Choice Award, the Professional Division and Team Spirit Award.  The PYT SafeHouse Staff won the People’s Choice Award. BlueCross BlueShield won the Professional Division and Team Spirit Award for their jambalaya dish. Michael Glenn, an executive chef for BlueCross BlueShield, participated in the competition with his company’s winning team.

“I was very glad to do it and pleased to be a part of it,” Glenn said. “The music was great, people were very cordial and SafeHouse was very accommodating. The guests were very appreciative. This was great cause and I’d do anything for a great cause.”

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