Rotary preps for 44th bean dinner

Published 1:00 am Saturday, March 14, 2015

NW0315 Rotary Bean Dinner A

Beans. Word on the street is they’re good for your heart.

They are also good for the pocketbook of local nonprofit agencies and provide a good meal during the annual Elizabethton Rotary bean dinner.

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The 44th bean dinner will be held 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday in the T.A. Dugger Junior High School cafeteria. The dinner is on of the Rotary Club of Elizabethton’s biggest fundraisers.

This dinner, which can produce up to 500 meals, takes well-organized preparation plan.

Rotary club members started gearing up for the dinner this past Thursday by sorting the beans. Anyone who has cooked a good old-fashioned pot of soup beans knows one of the most important steps is to sort the beans to make sure no rocks, gravel or other debris accidentally collected during picking make it into the cooking pot.

Many Rotary club members gathered in fellow Rotary member Joe Alexander’s office in downtown Elizabethton to sort through the 168 pounds of dried beans that would be used during the dinner. As members sorted beans to prepare to be cooked, they reminisced a little about the history of the bean dinner.

The dinner was first started by Richard Tetrick as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Over the years, additional nonprofit organizations were added to share in the proceeds from bean dinner.

“Money raised from our bean dinner goes back into the community,” Alexander said. “We still give to the American Cancer Society along with some other groups.”

In 2014, the Elizabethton Rotary Club contributed to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County, camp scholarships for 4H, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, scholarships for East Tennessee State University, Northeast State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology; the Carter County GED grant program, the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way and Rotary International programs.

When the dinner first started, the meal was held at Elizabethton’s First United Methodist Church, Alexander said. Club members, with the help of John Gillespie and Bea Little, cooked the beans, cornbread and other parts of the meal.

“When we first started, we made the cornbread in an old cast iron skillet,” Alexander said. “That was an ordeal.”

The dinner was then moved to TAD and the cafeteria staff took over most of the preparation of the meals. They cook the beans and cornbread and prepare the coleslaw. Rotary club members bring the homemade desserts.

“They are the professionals,” Alexander said. “They are much better at it than we are.”

As for the recipe for the beans, that includes adding ham to the soup beans for extra flavor.

“We flavor them up right,” Alexander said. ”That is the only way to do soup beans.”

With almost all the cooking responsibilities taken care of by TAD cafeteria staff, the Rotary club members focus on serving diners during the meal. The club members work in the serving line putting the food on to trays or in carry-out boxes. They then deliver the meals to the table or the customer waiting on the carry-out boxes.

Tickets for the dinner are $5 per person and carry out meals are available. Tickets can be bought the night of the dinner at the door or from any Rotary club member. A change this year is TAD students will also be selling tickets, Alexander said.

An alternative menu of corn dogs and chips will be available.

For more information call 543-2221.