MUSCATINE, Iowa–As the Salvation Army of Muscatine County prepared for its annual Toy Time toy drive in 2010, Muscatine resident Viola Werner knew she wanted to help out. She remembers, “I was looking for a way to help the community, so I started getting toys for the Salvation Army.”
At the time, Werner and her husband owned a bar. To raise the money needed to purchase toys, they organized a chili cookoff contest at the bar on a weekend afternoon. Dubbed the Toyz 4 Kids Chili Cookoff, the event proved successful and has continued as an annual tradition ever since.
This year’s Toyz 4 Kidz Chili Cookoff will take place Oct. 17 at Jody’s Bar, 226 Walnut Street, Muscatine. Werner welcomes anyone interested to bring a pot of homemade chili to enter into the free contest beginning at 11 a.m. For only $5, guests may have all the chili they care to eat and may vote on their favorite dish. The most popular chili will receive the year’s grand prize trophy.
Along with sampling some of Muscatine County’s best comfort food made by local cooks, Toyz 4 Kids Chili Cookoff attendees can get in on a handful of other fun activities too. A 50/50 drawing and silent auction will run throughout the event, giving everyone the opportunity to help further fundraising efforts and possibly win some exciting prizes too. All who attend can also qualify for door prizes as well. All money raised will go to purchase children’s bikes and toys for the Salvation Army.
In 2019, the Toyz 4 Kids Chili Cookoff raised around $1,500 dollars. Along with donations from other events, Werner raised about $4,000 total, which allowed her to donate 68 bikes of all sizes and $1,000 in toys to the Salvation Army’s Toy Time. Though Werner understands that the economic hardship the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and the cancelation of some other fundraising opportunities will make it difficult to match last year’s numbers, she still believes the community will come through and help her help kids this holiday season. “I know this year is probably not going to be as good as other years, but I’m still hopeful,” she shared.
The Salvation Army of Muscatine County appreciates Werner’s optimism and dedication to Toy Time, which they still plan to hold later this year. While the Salvation Army’s toy distribution will look different this year than it has in years past, the Salvation Army welcomes families in need to apply for assistance and to shop the selection of toys available by scheduling individual appointments, which they can do by calling 563-263-8272.
Though the holiday season may feel far away, the time has come to start helping the Salvation Army prepare to assist those in need. Werner hopes many people will help her continue to keep Toy Time successful by coming out and supporting the Toyz 4 Kids Chili Cookoff. “Because of the pandemic, a lot more people are going to need help,” stated Werner. “If you think you can help or you think you could donate, we could sure use your help.”