ATLANTIC CITY — Miss Montana sliced jalapenos while Miss Kentucky chopped yams Saturday.

In what was one of the first public appearances by this year’s Miss America contestants, the 51 women stopped by the Atlantic City Rescue Mission from 4 to 6 p.m. to lend a helping hand.

This is the fourth straight year contestants have helped out at the rescue mission, which provides shelter and aid for local homeless.

One group of contestants prepped vegetables while another group served trays of food. A third group visited the women and families on the rescue mission’s third floor, handing out tiaras and coloring books to children.

Daniel Brown, president and CEO of the rescue mission, said having the contestants interact with the homeless and others shows the people of the rescue mission the community cares about them.

“For our side, what it shows to the people who are suffering or feel they don’t have any value — and that’s a tough thing — is that this coming-together lifts up the spirits to say, ‘Yeah there are people who care about us serving us,’” Brown said.

One of those contestants who was ready to serve was Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti.

Bonacquisti sliced jalapenos that would later be dried out and used as powder.

She said Saturday’s event is a good way to show the contestants how much Miss America does away from the cameras.

“She’s not just walking around with a crown on all the time; she’s a servant for others. It just means the world to take a step back and, really, this is about other people (today),” Bonacquisti said.

She added the event was more than just a PR stunt for the organization.

“It’s real, and it’s not just something we do for a camera. It’s something we do because we love it. Yes, we’re titleholders, but that’s what this organization is all about. It’s about serving,” she said.

Chef Rick Hellein helped the women get adjusted to their stations, teaching them how to husk corn and chop yams.

He was taken aback when he saw all the work the women were doing.

“I’m surprised. I thought this would just be a bunch of photo ops, but these girls are really working and doing a lot of stuff. It was a pleasant surprise, and I’m grateful for any help we can get,” Hellein said.

Contact: 609-272-7258 mreil@pressofac.com Twitter @acpressmaxreil

I’ve written for multiple publications including Levittown Now, Passyunk Post, Philadelphia Neighborhoods,Temple News and JUMP Magazine. I’ve covered arts, entertainment, business, music, sports and local government. Experienced in videography.