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Giving back over $1 million to College Station schools since 1999.

Organizers of 'Men Who Can Cook' hope to raise more than $200K this year

Armed with aprons and -- as one organizer puts it -- "lots of bacon," men from the area hope to raise more than $200,000 for College Station students and teachers.

For the past nine years, school leaders and community members have gotten together to prepare food for hundreds of guests as part of the College Station ISD Education Foundation's 50 Men Who Can Cook event.

The event has raised a total of $1.1 million for the district, and this year organizers hope to go beyond the more than the $205,000 raised last year. The fundraiser is the largest put on by the College Station ISD Education Foundation, with the majority of the money going toward grants for teachers.

Organizer Teresa Benden said events such as Men Who Can Cook are especially important with the uncertainty around what the 2017-2018 budget for public schools will look like at the end of this legislative session.

"As many know, the state funding for public education has dropped in the last several years, and so education foundations are stepping in to basically help bridge the gap and bring things into the classroom that our local school system just can't afford do," she said. "So we hope to bring in some innovative and technological things that students and teachers can use to make learning fun and exciting and challenging."

Margo Dailey, foundation board president, said the organization was able to award its millionth dollar in teacher grants this year because of fundraisers such as Men Who Can Cook. She said these grants are pivotal, because they allow teachers to work on projects that would otherwise be passed up.

"If [teachers] are worried about our funding for books or materials, they don't have the time or money to do the extra projects that they want to do," Dailey said. "I think it's part of what makes our district one of the premier districts, because we can offer those special learning experiences for our students."

The remainder of funds go toward student scholarships and Success 24/7, an online education tool used in middle and high schools.

Jack Adams, a "semi-retiree" who teaches part time at Blinn College, has participated in the event every year except for the first. He said the ability to give back to the community is a big part of what draws him back every time.

"It's local," he said. "The money stays right here in our community rather than going off somewhere else. That's just my preference. It doesn't matter to me which of the cities -- College Station or Bryan -- I just like it being local, where I can see it makes a difference."

Adams, who graduated from A&M Consolidated High School, said the friendly environment also brings him back.

"It's very much a fun event," Adams said. "A lot of people in the community show up. It's a good time to see people you know but might not see all the time. And you have the chance to meet others who are involved in this project."

Adams will be bringing sugar-coated pecans this year and is one of 68 amateur chef setting up booths. Other chefs include College station Police Chief Scott McCollum and the Brazos Valley Bombers. The chefs will cook up appetizers, entrees, desserts, soups and chilis, said Benden.

"We've got people making cobbler all the way to making ribs to making tenderloins to making cornbread and greens," Benden said. "I mean you name it, the gamut of food is there."

The event is expected to draw in 1,600 guests and has already raised $143,000 from local sponsors. Benden said the rest of the proceeds will come from ticket sales, a silent auction and a new "grab bag booth," where guests will pay $20 to pick a bag from a booth. The prizes inside range from a scarf to a voucher for a hotel stay.

Dailey said the event is ultimately a lot of fun and for a good cause.

"That's the best part of the event," Dailey said. "[Guests] just come and enjoy the some good food, but at the end of the day, they are supporting the students in our district," Dailey said.