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Oddly enough the birth of "Cooking in Central" extends five years prior to the incorporation of the City of Central. "Cooking," as we've fondly named this event, found her beginnings on September 11, 2001. I'm sure everyone who was of age remembers what they were doing on or about 8:30 a.m. that dreadful morning and also remembers being glued to the TV that whole month.
On Thursday, September 13, 2001, the foremen of Louis Mechanical Contractors had a dinner meeting planned at Louis and Becky DeJohn's house and instead of cancelling, the decision was made that they surely needed to gather that evening. As expected very little work topics were discussed. Naturally the focus of the meeting centered on how helpless and violated we felt and what could we do to help our neighbors in New York and in turn lift our own spirits. It took a few days to reach the final decision but eventually it was decided to gather as many people in the plumbing industry as possible and raise money to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. As one would expect, gathering friends and competitors after such a tragic event was easy and by the middle of September the "Greater Baton Rouge Plumbing Industry Disaster Relief Effort" was established. After a short discussion they decided that giving a "cook-off" at Lamar Dixon Expo Center would be the best way to raise a substantial purse. As a result, plumbing contractors, employees, suppliers, and design professionals set aside their competitive differences, joined hands and raised $81,000 to contribute to the campaign initiated by Governor Mike Foster dubbed "Buck$ for Firetruck$".
Then in 2005 two colossal storms, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, rocked the Louisiana coast and many of our citizens again felt helpless. Similar to "Buck$ for Firetruck$, the devastation left by these two storms prompted the leaders of the "City of Central" (many of whom had helped in the "Buck$ for Firetruck$" campaign) to extend a helping hand to one of the cities that were destroyed by the force of nature. In January 2006, the City of Central hosted "Cookin' for Our Neighbors." This event raised $191,000 and those proceeds were used to purchase three school buses for St. Bernard Parish, which now proudly bear the inscription "Spirit of the City of Central."
Seeing the enormous success of that event Mayor Mac Watts asked the organizers to host an annual festival. Many cities in Louisiana have fairs and carnivals to showcase their city, but here in Central we have chosen to hold this event each spring and use the proceeds to benefit others. Similar to "Buck$ for Firetruck$", "Cooking in Central" was formed to help our friends in need.
With the welcomed absence of national and local tragedies, the organizers of "Cooking in Central" decided to put their effort into supporting our local schools. Yes, in 2007, there was an immediate need at home as the Central Community School System was born and though they secured a line of credit there was no money to cover their initial expenses. The inaugural "Cooking in Central hosts "Cookin' for our Kids" raised $331,000 and the whole Cooking family can be proud of the fact that through their efforts, that line of credit was never touched.
In 2008 organizers decided that all the schools in Central could use financial assistance. To date, Cooking has raised and donated over $1,000,000 (that's right one million dollars) to public, private and parochial schools within the City of Central. These funds have been used to purchase much needed technology, library and wellness program materials for our nine local schools.
With that being our history, only God knows what the future holds. One thing is for certain; "Cooking in Central" with help from our citizens will continue to serve others.
The citizens of Central are committed to helping others in need. We feel that your participation will enhance our ability to show others what people can do when they work for a common cause. A commitment from you will enable us to raise the bar and reach much loftier goals.