The Pool at Harrah's Casino Hotel was filled with the aroma of 60 different dishes to go with the smell of chlorine Thursday.
The casino hosted the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City for its 12th annual "South Jersey's Men R' Cookin' event." It is the largest fundraiser of the year for the organization and it came as the club continues to work to rebound from Hurricane Sandy.
Executive Director Mekos Denson said the club suffered $400,000 worth of damage to its two facilities, on Pennsylvania Avenue and Sovereign Avenue, the latter of which is expected to reopen next week.
There were 60 area amateur and professional chefs who each made a special dish for the estimated 700 people in attendance to sample. Denson said this was the second year Harrah's hosted the club and they hoped to raise between $70,000 and $75,000 this year — an increase form last year's total of about $57,000.
The club has also received a lot of donations from the community. Art Handler's Appliance Center in Pleasantville recently announced they will donate a new kitchen for the club's cooking program. This year's theme was "Take the Plunge" to encourage more people in the community to get involved, Denson said.
"We've had a lot of support from individuals and businesses," he said. "It's time to take the plunge for the kids."
The organization works with about 300 kids a day, and Delois Campbell, chair of the organization's executive board, said they are also trying to develop a teen center at the Pennsylvania Avenue location to give academic support and social programs to kids up to 18-years-old.
"There is a lot to do," she said. "We need money to fund all these things."
David Ross, director of organizational development in the northeast region for the national Boys & Girls Club organization, said the local chapter was among the hardest hit of the 23 statewide groups because of Sandy. Chapters from across the country were donating money to help out, and Ross said he has been impressed by the work of the local individuals and the community to help them rebound.
The upscale event, sponsored by The Press of Atlantic City, 100.7 WZXL and Harrah's, brought people around the pool to partake in several items, including buffalo wing meatballs, pulled-pork sliders and chili chocolate bread pudding.
"Everyone's happy, everyone's chewing," said Chris Bellino, executive chef of the Smithville Inn in Galloway. "It's a great time."
Egg Harbor Township resident Kim McDuffie attended for the first time and was amazed at the turnout.
"I absolutely love it," she said. "I love the quality of the food. I love the idea. I love so many people came out — especially with this economy. It makes me very proud to see people support the Boys & Girls Club."
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