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While taking a break from the food and friendly rivalries of the Benton County Sheriff's Office Chili Cook-off for a presentation of the colors, organizer Nicole Beachboard asked the audience to take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of the first responders on Sept. 11, 2001.

Beachboard, who lost friends in the attacks, said she started the event as a way to give the public an opportunity to get to know law enforcement members in a friendly environment and improve their relationships with the public.

“This is just me doing what I can to give back,” she said.

And the event has given back a fair bit: According to Beachboard, in the eight previous years it was held it has raised more than $100,000 for local charities.

“That’s a lot of chili,” she said.

This year’s proceeds go to Benton County 4-H and the Benton County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse.

Sheriff Scott Jackson said this year’s cook-off falling on Sept. 11 gave them a good opportunity to pay their respects to the fallen.

And he agreed that it gave them an opportunity for law enforcement to interact with the public in a way they wouldn’t otherwise.

“It reinforces the fact that we are part of the community,” he said.

The competition had 16 teams participating and serving up samples to the attendees. New teams included REACH Air Transport, Jackson Street Youth Shelter and the Old Mill Center for Children and Families.

Beachboard said this year’s event differed from last year in that 4-H volunteers did a lot of the work. She said they usually don’t ask the beneficiaries to help put on the event.

“The kids really wanted to get involved,” she said.

The event had about 40 volunteers from 4-H.

“I’m impressed they were so eager to do that, considering they just did the fair,” said Beachboard.

Carolyn Ashton, a 4-H faculty member with the Oregon State University Extension, said 4-H is a project based program intended to connect kids with things in which they are interested. Through that they teach them leadership and communication skills.

“It helps grow and develop all these life long skills,” she said.

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Anthony Rimel can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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