Students Organize Chili Cook-Off to Aid Hurricane Harvey Relief

Southeast Texas natives Jaron Shrock ’18 and Maria Cuervo ’18 hosted the “Swatties for Houston Chili Cook-Off” on Parrish Beach on Saturday to raise money for the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

Seventeen contestants — individuals as well as groups made up of students, faculty, and staff members — entered a batch of five to 10 pounds of chili in the competition, and attendees sampled the batches and placed tokens next to their favorite chilies. The top three chilis (in no particular order) belonged to Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development T. Shá Duncan Smith; Shrock, an Honors physics and mathematics major from Buda, Tex.; and 10-year-old Lucy Hewitt, a fourth grader at the Swarthmore-Rutledge school and daughter of Joe Hewitt, a physician/clinician with Counseling and Psychological Services, and Cathy Dunn, a school liaison in Educational Studies.

“The event was successful, and we were excited to see all sorts of people, from faculty, staff, administration, athletics, students, and Swarthmore residents, attend and help,” says Cuervo, a political science and psychology major from Houston, Tex.

She and Shrock organized the cook-off as an homage to their home state, where chili cook-offs are common. 

“The idea of doing a fundraiser struck me when my mom told me about some relatives who were staying with us until they could repair their homes,” Shrock explains. “I reached out to Maria to brainstorm ideas and started knocking on doors in [the Office of Student Engagement].”

“Although my family and I were very fortunate,” Cuervo adds, “it was heartbreaking to see so many Houstonians suffer.”

Contestants were asked to donate $20 to the event, and attendees paid $10 for an entrance ticket that allowed unlimited samples of the different chilis. The funds raised will be donated to the St. Bernard Project (SBP), a group that was founded after Hurricane Katrina and works to provide relief after natural disasters. SBP focuses on rebuilding homes, preparing home and business owners for disasters, advising policy makers, and advocating for disaster recovery strategies. 

“Our goal is to unite the entire Swarthmore community — faculty, administrators, staff, coaches, and students — in an outpouring of love and support,” Dean of Students Liz Braun wrote in an email to the College community promoting the event, which also included side dishes, other refreshments, and family-friendly yard games.

The College has also been collecting donations in support of Hurricane Harvey, which can be made in the One Card Office (131 Parrish Hall) through 4:30 p.m. today.