Community partners with Loudon County Habitat for Humanity have gotten creative raising funds to construct homes for needy families.
Habitat supporters will be smoking ribs Saturday at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in an effort to raise funds to build the church's third Habitat home, Ribfest committee co-chairman Andrew Wilkinson said.
It's the fifth year the church has held Ribfest 4 Homes, a cooking contest in which teams from across East Tennessee, and even northern Georgia, compete for prizes. Ribs will also be for sale to the public, and Ribfest attendees can cast votes for the tastiest offerings.
Episcopal Church of the Resurrection has already built two Habitat homes with Ribfest funds from past events.
"We will build a third either late this year or early next year with what we took from last year's plus this year's event," Wilkinson said.
At Saturday's ribfest, participants will have a chance to sample ribs and hear music from live bands. Ribfest 4 Homes will be held 1-5 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, located off Highway 11 in Loudon.
Wilkinson said he is expecting 17 barbecue teams and 400-500 people. "Our church was instrumental for establishing Habitat for Humanity many years ago, and throughout all the years we had never sponsored a house, so I decided it was about time we did," Wilkinson said. "The result is we decided a good way to raise money for that is to hold this rib smoking contest and as they say the rest is history."
Tickets are available in advance online for $25 at http://www.ribfest4homes.com
and at the door for $30.
Last year's Ribfest raised $17,000. Wilkinson said he hopes this year's event raises $15,000.
"We hope to come very close to last year's, which exceeded our expectations by about $5,000," he said. "Every two years we can build or provide enough money to sponsor a house for Loudon County Habitat for Humanity."
Habitat officials hope to complete the organization's 100th home this year to celebrate 20 years of existence in the county.
"Honestly, we've been debating and discussing on this for many years," Shauna Oden, Habitat executive director, said. "The need in our county is growing and we can sit by and do a little bit and continue to be comfortable or we can make an effort to do more."
Though Saturday's funds from Ribfest will not help Habitat reach that 100 mark, Oden said community partnerships have been instrumental in the organization's mission.
"It's a great event, and they were able to raise enough in two years to fund a sponsorship for a Habitat house," Oden said.
Volunteers are currently concentrating their efforts on four homes. "In our 20 years we've built 94 homes. ... We've already completed four," Oden said. "We've got two more to start and finish. We are on track."
Oden said Habitat hopes to complete 10 homes this year, the most the organization has finished in one year in Loudon County. At the same time, Habitat volunteers have been repairing homes for the elderly and disabled. During the summer, Habitat partnered with church youth to revitalize homes in downtown Loudon and Lenoir City.
"There is just a great need in our community. Our housing stock is fairly old and a lot of elderly and disabled people live in homes they've lived in all of their lives, and they don't have the money to make the necessary repairs to stay in their homes," Oden said, adding Habitat is always in need of volunteers and sponsorships.
Though he enjoys Ribfest, Wilkinson said the effort boils down to a home dedication ceremony, a Habitat tradition when a family receives the keys to their volunteer, community-touched home.
"It's a feeling of extreme satisfaction in that we have been able to help a family in need," Wilkinson said. "When each house is dedicated we share in that because we get to take part in it. ... To see the joy in these families who themselves are putting a lot of time and effort into building the house, it's extremely rewarding."