PRESS RELEASE: NEWTON, N.J. – Plans are underway for the annual Chili Open Golf Classic fundraiser to be held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds on Saturday, February 3. Proceeds will benefit Project Give Shelter, a Project Self-Sufficiency initiative to help Sussex County residents who need emergency temporary shelter or stable housing. The 20-year-old event was handed off by the United Way of Northern New Jersey to Project Self-Sufficiency last year.
“Success in becoming self-sufficient is built on a stable foundation of secure and safe housing,” said Project Self-Sufficiency Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon. “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.”
Funds from the Chili Open are dedicated to providing emergency shelter, security deposits, rent and utility payments as necessary and appropriate, Berry-Toon said. The agency’s Project Give Shelter initiative is part of a longer-range effort to fight homelessness and is designed to aid both renters and landlords.
“Project Self-Sufficiency has comprehensive wraparound programs and the staff to coordinate our efforts with other community providers to assure families and children are not left out in the cold,” explained Berry-Toon.
The annual Chili Open Golf Classic, which has become a beloved wintertime tradition, is played on a makeshift course at Sussex County Fairgrounds. Golfers play a scramble format of two of the four nine-hole, par-three courses before heading indoors for lunch featuring a variety of fare donated by area restaurants, including, of course, a selection of chili, with music provided by R.E.N.O. the Band, a putting contest, beverages, raffles and a 50/50 drawing.
Rotary Clubs in Branchville, Newton and Wallkill partner with Project Self-Sufficiency to organize and serve breakfast and lunch, staff a cash bar and provide souvenir photos of the golfers, among other event assistance.
“Many golfers have been attending the Chili Open for years,” said Bruce Tomlinson, Project Self-Sufficiency development director, and a longtime Chili Open participant. “In some ways, the Chili Open is like an annual community family reunion.”
Over the years, the Chili Open has been played in a wide variety of conditions. Temperatures at last year’s event tumbled to 20 degrees below zero windchill. Other years, golfers played in short sleeves with very moderate temperatures. And there have been years when half a foot of snow needed to be plowed from the makeshift fairways and ice filled the golf cups.
“Golfers of all levels – even non-golfers – have a great time, regardless of the weather,” Tomlinson observed. “But they do seem to like the challenge of less-than-ideal conditions.”
Because the Chili Open is a fundraiser to help those facing housing crises in Sussex County, sponsors and golfers are needed and welcomed. Funds from last year’s event were used to provide over 630 nights of shelter and help 73 local families, including 109 adults and 81 children, avoid homelessness.
Chili Open Golf Classic registration details and sponsorship opportunities can be found on the Project Self-Sufficiency website, www.projectselfsufficiency.org/chili-open.