The Emmanuel United Methodist Church is opening its doors to residents of Keokuk and the surrounding community on Election Day, just as it has for decades. The church expects to serve hundreds of bowls of chili and vegetable soup as part of its 36th Election Day Chili Feed.
Carla Wixom is a member of the church, which is located at the corner of 12th and Exchange Streets in Keokuk. She said the preparation begins each year in August or September.
“(That’s) when we decide whether or not we are going to do this another year,” said Wixom.
Wixom said, at first, the chili feeds were held every four years, but as they grew in popularity, they occurred more frequently. She said the church is relatively small, with about 75 regular members, so everyone helps out to make the event a success.
“We’ve been doing it so long that everybody has their role,” said Wixom, as she placed sliced carrots and celery in a ziplock bag Monday afternoon. “Every year we call upon pretty much the same people to help us out.”
Joining Wixom in the church basement were Linda Sue Mullins, Jeanne Kisor and Ruth Hopkins. Hopkins was rinsing celery in the sink while Mullins and Kisor were chopping it.
Hopkins said she loves the smell of the church in the days following the chili feed, thanks to the lingering aroma of chili and vegetable soup.
The vegetable soup started cooking in large serving trays Monday morning, with the chili to follow in the afternoon. Wixom said the same recipes have been used for years, adding if it works, don’t change it.
The women expect to serve about 500 people in the church from 11am-7pm, with many more carry-out or delivery orders, which begin about 10am. Hopkins said it’s not unusual for local factories or schools to place orders.
Wixom said for $6, you get a bowl of soup or chili, celery and carrots, dessert and drinks. She said homemade chicken potpies are available and for the kids, or the kids at heart, hot dogs can be cooked.
The money raised covers the cost of the event and helps fund improvements to the church, such as a new roof and flooring in recent years.
Wixom said the chili feed is a fun way to give the community a place to come together on Election Day, especially given the tone of the Presidential campaign. In fact, she said the church’s sanctuary is open for members of the public who feel they need to pray before casting their ballots.