NEWTON, N.J. – Preparations are being finalized for the annual Chili Open Golf Classic fundraiser to be held on the grounds of the Sussex County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Feb. 4, including the return of the popular seven-person rock ensemble, R.E.N.O. the Band. Proceeds from the nearly 20-year-old event will benefit Project Give Shelter, a new Project Self-Sufficiency initiative to help Sussex County residents who need emergency temporary shelter or stable housing.
After playing on two of the four makeshift, nine-hole, par-three courses created at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, golfers will be entertained by R.E.N.O. the Band while enjoying lunch, contests, raffles and a 50/50. Band founder Tommy Gomez was the victor of the inaugural Chili Open. He has since returned to the event as both a golfer and as an entertainer. The band has performed at the Chili Open for about 12 years.
Gomez explains that the band’s unusual moniker is an acronym for “Really Enjoyable Necessary Opportunities” and underscores the group’s mission of “Playing music, having fun, helping others.” Since its inception 18 years ago, the band has helped to raise more than $2 million for local organizations, including veterans groups, rotaries, food pantries and the United Way, the former sponsor of the Chili Open. The group never accepts payment, even plowing all of their tips into an annual festival which raises funds for local food banks.
“We make plenty of money, we just give it all away,” noted Gomez. “Our commitment is to the organizations that benefit from our performances.”
“The Chili Open has been driven successfully every year by a strong corps of dedicated volunteers, including the members of R.E.N.O. the Band, who understand the importance of raising needed funds and having fun while doing it,” said Bruce Tomlinson, Project Self-Sufficiency development director, and a longtime Chili Open volunteer. “We are very fortunate that those loyal volunteers are continuing to assure the success of the Chili Open and we welcome more to join in.”
During the event, rotary clubs from Branchville, Newton and Wallkill will organize and serve breakfast and lunch, staff a cash bar and provide souvenir photos of the golfers, among other event assistance.
Proceeds from the event will support Project Self-Sufficiency’s new Project Give Shelter initiative, a long-range effort to fight homelessness which is designed to aid both renters and landlords. The dedicated funds from the Chili Open will be used to provide local emergency shelter, security deposits, rent and utility payments as necessary and appropriate, explained Deborah Berry-Toon, Project Self-Sufficiency’s executive director.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue this popular wintertime event to raise funds to help our neighbors in need,” Berry-Toon said. “Success in becoming self-sufficient is built on a stable foundation of secure and safe housing. It’s difficult to find a job, hold a job, get an education or receive training when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep at night, or you must constantly relocate.”
Only the pandemic in 2021 has prevented the Chili Open from being played every year since 2003. Weather conditions have ranged from over a foot of snow necessitating the plowing of the fairways, to ice and sleet, to unseasonably warm temperatures when golfers broke out their short-sleeved shirts.
Registration details and sponsorship opportunities can be found on the Project Self-Sufficiency website, https://www.projectselfsufficiency.org/chili-open.