Warm up your taste buds and get ready for a flavor-filled fund raiser to benefit Chaffee County Habitat for Humanity.

Anne-Marie de Laforrest, marketing intern and fund raiser coordinator, bubbles with enthusiasm speaking about the upcoming bake-off. “We’re really excited. This event has grown so rapidly and has helped to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing in the Ark Valley. Proceeds raised have helped many of our projects come to life. It’s a great feeling.”

The fund raiser serves Habitat’s core mission of “bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope, creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” Local buzz indicates this year’s event will be a bigger, more deliciously inspired gathering of friends, family and local businesses coming together to support the construction of affordable homes and to aid in the empowerment of families in Chaffee County.

Last year’s event had approximately 250 visitors. Proceeds benefited projects such as the recently completed Salida Community Center annex. A new project, in partnership with the Salida School District, will build a duplex at Spartan Heights to provide affordable housing for district teaching staff. Students from Salida High School will provide labor.

“Students gain life skills. Teachers will have affordable housing options. It’s an opportunity to thrive,” says de Laforrest.

This year’s Mac & Cheese Bake-Off will take place Wednesday, July 25, at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Pavilion from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Kids 12 and under get in for $5. Tickets can be purchased online at ChaffeeHabitat.org. The event will include a cash bar, salad, dessert, door prizes donated by local businesses, a silent auction and live music by Bent Roses, Salida’s own musical storyteller duo, Bill and Susan Roser.

Concerning the mac and cheese competition, de Laforrest chuckles, “competition will be stiff, but we are seeking more competitors.”

There are two categories, professional and individual. Each winner receives a certificate and $100 Visa gift card. 2017 winners Jennifer Garcia (individual) and Brett, a Mount Princeton Club chef (professional), were also the previous year’s champions. “Their mac and cheese was certainly delicious, and these two are an inspiration. But they need to be challenged. We need new winners this year,” jokes de Laforrest.

Contestants of any age or ability are encouraged to enter, so dig out your grandma’s secret recipe and join in the fun. Sign-up must be completed by July 22 at the Chaffee County Habitat website.

De Laforrest states, “We take great joy in giving back and hope our efforts will inspire others to do the same. There are many ways you can help, big or small: financial donations, volunteering, shopping at the ReStore, signing up for Amazon Smiles or City Market Cares.”

Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit ecumenical Christian housing organization founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, who were inspired by a desire to create an organization that could be a world leader in addressing the issues of poverty and housing.

The 2018 bake-off is sponsored by Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, which has hosted the event since 2015, and TBK Bank. Make a day of it at Mount Princeton Hot Springs by enjoying a soak in the pools before or after the event.

It is wonderful to contemplate that one of America’s beloved comfort foods, mac and cheese, not only makes a bad day better but also helps provide comfortable living spaces for people in need. It’s a delicious win-win situation. Another helping please.