From Enterprise Staff
Polk County Cares will host its 11th annual crawfish and shrimp boil on Feb. 10 at the Polk County Commerce Center and Toni Cochran-Hughes, one of the founders of the 501(c)3 non-profit, recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Livingston about the upcoming event.
“In 2012, my best friend, Lisa Mayhugh, was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband Scott and I decided to form a team for the local Relay for Life, which was a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. We raised a few thousand dollars that first year. In 2014 I told Scott we should have a crawfish boil fundraiser. Had either of us ever had a crawfish boil before? No, but I told Scott, ‘We’ve been to enough. We will figure it out.’ We continued with our crawfish boil and auction for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, being the top fundraising team in Polk County and one of the top teams in our region for six years.
“In 2018, Scott and I were visiting with Bea and Dan Ellis about F.A.I.T.H. Military Support Group and its expenses. Scott and I went home and talked about how we could help. We invited F.A.I.T.H. to join our crawfish boil, splitting the money between the American Cancer Society and F.A.I.T.H.
“In 2019, Scott and I wanted to continue to help in the fight against cancer, but we wanted to help local cancer patients. I spoke with Jeanie Binns and discovered that Center of Hope was in the planning stages of forming an organization to help Polk County cancer patients with travel expenses. Scott and I prayed about it and asked Center of Hope-Cancer Support to join us.
“In 2020, we were lucky enough to be one of the last events before the COVID shutdown. During the shutdown, Scott and I started talking about how we could help more people in our area. We formed Polk County Cares, a 501(c)3 organization that partners with the community to support local charities. Our purpose is to raise funds to be distributed to qualifying non-profit organizations in Polk County. I have a few application packets if anyone is interested.
“In 2021, with COVID still out there, we decided to have our crawfish boil as a drive-thru event and have some raffle items and it was very successful.
“In 2022, we raised over $80,000 and were thrilled with that number. Polk County Cares donated $30,855 each to Center of Hope-Cancer Support and F.A.I.T.H.
“Last year when we started planning the 10th crawfish boil the Polk County Cares board set our goal at $90,000. I thought to myself that 100,000 sure is a nice round number, but I wouldn’t say it out loud. We fed around 580 people and had an outstanding live auction and sold out of steer and purse raffle tickets. We started a couple of new things last year. We had a bucket raffle where you buy ticket books, and each item had a bucket that you put the tickets in and that was a great success. We also had two poker chip raffles for two guns. We had 100 poker chips numbered one through 99 in a bag. You pay the number that you pull. The night of the fundraiser when we got home, I started counting the money. I called Scott to come into my office and double check my figures. They couldn’t be right. We both counted and added everything probably six times. We had raised $129,644. It still amazes me saying that number. I did some checking and in 2021, the population of Polk County was 51,899, so we had raised $2.50 for each resident of the county.
“We have come a long way in the last 11 years. The first year we boiled 450 pounds of crawfish for about 150 people. This year we will boil over 1,500 pounds of crawfish and 475 pounds of shrimp for around 600 people. Over the last 12 years we have raised over $679,000.
“This year’s fundraiser is Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Polk County Commerce Center beginning with cocktails at 5 p.m. We start serving at 5:30 p.m. and the live auction begins at 6:30 p.m. We will have the live and silent auctions, steer and purse raffles as well as the bucket raffles, the poker chip raffles for guns, and since the Super Bowl is the next day, this year we are selling Super Bowl squares.”
In closing, Cochran-Hughes thanked the sponsors who have already purchased tables and also thanked the Polk County Cares board, without whom she said this event would not be possible.