Surprise: Cahaba Center for Mental Health executive director Lafon Barlow, along with clients at staff at the center, react to the presentation of a $10,000 check from organizers of the annual Alabama River Chili Cookoff.  Cahaba Center was the charity chosen to receive the proceeds from the annual event. (Jay Sowers | Times-Journal)
Surprise: Cahaba Center for Mental Health executive director Lafon Barlow, along with clients at staff at the center, react to the presentation of a $10,000 check from organizers of the annual Alabama River Chili Cookoff. Cahaba Center was the charity chosen to receive the proceeds from the annual event. (Jay Sowers | Times-Journal)

Cahaba Center officials in ‘shock’

Published 9:10pm Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Members of the Leadership Selma-Dallas County Class XVIII presented a check for $10,000 to the Cahaba Center for Mental Health Tuesday — the proceeds from the 3rd annual Alabama River Chili Cookoff.

Cahaba Center executive director Lafon Barlow said the amount of money donated Tuesday was far more than she anticipated.

“It was pure shock. I couldn’t believe it. I feel like we just won the lottery,” Barlow said moments after staring in stunned disbelief at the large ceremonial check during a presentation with Leadership members Tuesday at the Cahaba Center. “In my wildest dreams I didn’t think we could have raised that much. That’s phenomenal for a community of our size to raise that kind of money.”

Along with money raised during the Chili Cookoff, a portion of the $10,000 donation was raised through a raffle organized by Leadership Selma-Dallas County Class XX.

Chili Cookoff co-chair Ebony Rose said watching Barlow’s reaction was worth the work the class puts the annual event.

“It was very rewarding,” Rose said. “It’s always a blessing to be in the position to help others, and especially in our community, a community with such thriving and wonderful individuals. This is what Leadership is all about and what our class was built on. So, whenever we are able to help others and give back to our community we are always happy to do it.”

Barlow said she was unsure exactly where the money would be used at the center, but with the mounting costs of clients’ needs, program supplies, learning materials and transportation services, she had no doubt it would be put to good use.

“Our state funding is limited and we continue to get cuts in all of our programs and so we will put this money toward an area that has the greatest need,” Barlow said. “I will have to see how this can be put to the best use, but we will definitely put it to good use.”

Leslie Free, Chili Cookoff co-chair, said she was especially honored to be able to hand the check to Barlow, knowing how much the money would mean to Barlow and the staff and clients at the Cahaba Center.

“They are so deserving of this,” Free said. “The Cahaba Center does so much for the surrounding areas and they reach out to so many people and they have so many clients. When we chose this charity it was unanimous. And, to see their reaction today just warms you heart and make us all so proud to be able to give back to the community.”

The 4th annual Alabama River Chili Cookoff is scheduled for Thursday, March 12, 2015.

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