It’s not about the chili.

Sure, Xpress Data, Inc.’s annual chili cook-off features some delicious recipes of the spicy stew, but the real magic is in the team-building and engagement.

That’s why, as the XDI Chili Challenge heads into its sixth year, the document services provider is offering kits credit unions can use to host their own cook-offs.

Kelly Hoog, XDI’s project coordinator, said the company has received feedback that using a chili kit it is a “fun, delicious way to promote employee engagement while building teamwork and leadership skills, supporting charity and providing a chance for employees to gain exposure to the region’s credit union community.”

XDI’s chili cook-off kit includes step-by-step instructions and electronic versions of all the documents a credit union needs to make the event a success, Hoog said. The chili cook-off kit includes judging cups and even an engraved customized plaque for the credit union’s winner. The materials can be downloaded by visiting XDI’s website at http://www.xdi.com/ChiliCookoffKit, and CUs are asked to please contact kelly@xdi.com to order customized plaque and judging cups. The entire kit is offered free and without obligation.

“A chili cook-off is a fun team building experience for all involved,” said Mike Cooper, XDI’s president. “We want all credit unions to share in that fun. And of course, if a credit union wants to send its winning team to our CU Chili Challenge, all the better.”

Several credit unions began using a version of the kit last year. At $4.3 billion Kinecta FCU, Manhattan Beach, Calif., various departments competed against each other in a spirited atmosphere that included playful taunting. Kinecta invited members to sample the chili and vote – and several hundred showed up for the event.

In Hollywood, $1.4 billion First Entertainment CU used the XDI chili kit to judge its internal competition, and sent the winner to the 2017 XDI Chili Challenge. First Entertainment ended up winning Best Booth last year.

First Entertainment Credit Union in Hollywood held an internal chili cook-off April 26.
First Entertainment CU in Hollywood held an internal chili cook-off April 26.

Christina Douglas handles IRA services support for First Entertainment, and she has been part of the CU’s employee events committee the past 3 years. The CU has held other internal chili contests, but its marketing director connected it with the XDI contest in 2016.

“Our first year definitely was a trial year. We were in awe of what people did with their booths and how much participation there was,” Douglas recalled. “Last year we went all out. Because of our Hollywood connection, we called our chili ‘A-List Chili’ and at our booth we had a red carpet and a photo booth.”

First Entertainment used the XDI chili kit for the first time in 2017. Douglas said it was an “exciting day,” with all of the contestants firing up their Crock-Pots by 9 a.m.

Chili chefs at First Entertainment Credit Union had their Crock-Pots fired up early.
Chili chefs at First Entertainment Credit Union had their Crock-Pots fired up early.

“Everyone wants to judge a chili cook-off,” she said with a laugh. “We really love it. It is a fun time. The XDI kit makes it easy for us to do a blind taste scoring system. It includes Styrofoam judging cups and a plaque for winner that is personalized for First Entertainment. It is a great team building opportunity that raises money for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.”

First Entertainment held this year’s internal chili cook-off on April 26. Angelica Gaona took first place, Nikki Markota second, with Paul Partida in third.

The top three chili chefs in First Entertainment Credit Union's chili cook-off.
The top three chili chefs in First Entertainment Credit Union's chili cook-off.

Mill City Credit Union, Minnetonka, Minn., used the XDI chili kit for its internal chili cook-off in November 2017. Robin Downing, VP of human resources for the $335 million CU, told Credit Union Journal each January the credit union accepts staff nominations for charities and non-profits that are close to their hearts, and the full staff votes to select one for the CU to support for the year. In 2017 the choice was Survivor Resources, a St. Paul-based non-profit that provides immediate and long-term support to families that had a member die of homicide, suicide, overdose or accident.

Last year’s Mill City CU chili challenge added grilled cheese sandwiches to the mix. Chefs ate free, while other staff members donated money to get to try the assembled chilies and enjoy a sandwich. The one-day event raised approximately $130 for Survivor Resources.

Mill City Credit Union in Minnetonka, Minn., held its own chili cook-off in November 2017 to raise money for charity.
Mill City Credit Union in Minnetonka, Minn., held its own chili cook-off in November 2017 to raise money for charity.

“We had many volunteers who made a variety of chilies,” Downing reported. “Everyone enjoyed testing them and voting on the best. We used the chili kit from XDI and they also created a plaque for the winner.”

The 2018 Mill City chili challenge, which is scheduled for this fall, will benefit this year’s charity selected by staff: Sharing and Caring Hands, a Minneapolis-based organization that provides shelter to families and/or children who are homeless.

The 6th Annual XDI Chili Challenge will be Aug. 4. In addition to bragging rights, the winning credit union team also gets a donation to the charity of its choice – this year’s purse is $25,000 to be split among the winners of a number of prize categories, not all of which have to do with the chili itself, such as Best Booth, Best Spirit and Best Social Media Presence.

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