Cowbells for cancer: Tips from festival food tent help local patients

5242445e43435_imageMITCHELL — Asher Arce rings the cowbell after giving Phi Beta Psi member Carolyn Zeeks, left, a tip. The bell ringing is a new tradition at the Phi Beta Psi food tent. The tips are used to help local cancer patients. The sorority did a brisk business Tuesday afternoon at the Mitchell Persimmon Festival.


BEDFORD — Leaving a tip at the Phi Beta Psi food stand is a big deal these days. Whether it’s loose change or several dollars, the members working the Persimmon Festival make sure everyone knows the tip jar just got a little richer, and someone battling cancer will benefit.

Clang, clang, clang goes the cowbell, followed by a chorus of hoots and hollers. And they do it for every tip.

On Tuesday, their enthusiasm for tips was still going strong.

“Let’s hope we’re still that loud Saturday night,” joked Nancy Mundy, a member of Phi Beta Psi and chairman of the festival food stand.

More Cowbells for Cancer will raise more than $1,000 this week for local cancer patients.

For years, the sorority has used the festival tip money to assist cancer patients in Lawrence County.

“Tips usually ranged from $200 to $300,” said Mundy.

A few years ago, a member brought up that the sorority needed to draw attention to the purpose of the tips so more people might give.

The idea for the More Cowbells for Cancer initiative was born and tips have grown exponentially.

“Last year, we raised $1,357,” said Mundy. “Our goal for this festival is to get $1,500 in tips.”

By midday Tuesday, tips totaled about $250, but Mundy said as the festival goes on, the crowds — and tips — get bigger.

“A lot of people didn’t realize what we were doing and they would ask, ‘Why are you ringing a bell and screaming?’ said Jodi Mundy, a Phi Beta Psi sorority member.

Now that the cowbell has caught on, festival-goers want in on the action.

“If kids are here at the stand, we let them ring the bell,” Nancy Mundy said.

The sorority may make a big to-do over the tips, but it goes about helping cancer patients quietly.

“If we find out someone has cancer, we’ll send them some money or a gas card,” said Nancy Mundy said. “All the tip money stays in the community.”

The sorority also supports national organizations that do cancer research.

The success of More Cowbells for Cancer makes the long hours at the Persimmon Festival worth the effort, say the members. Phi Beta Psi has had a food stand on Main Street for 66 years.

Sue Beasley, Mona Mundy and Sherlia Hunter don’t get to see much of the festival. They spend their days in the sorority house down the street, making chili, cutting pies and other food prep.

“We’re there from 8 to 8,” Hunter said.

Chili, sloppy joes and tenderloins are the stand’s biggest sellers, as well as its homemade persimmon pudding and pies.

“We go through about six pies a day,” Hunter said.

Each member is responsible for making four puddings for the food stand.

“One gal made 15,” Hunter said. Beasley made nine.

The week before the festival, the members brown 270 pounds of ground beef, which is frozen to be used in the chili and sloppy joes.

The 40 active members of the sorority are required to work 15 hours in the stand, but Nancy Mundy said many more people are involved in the stand.

“A lot of our husbands are involved putting the kitchen together, setting up the stand,” she said.

Beasley’s husband, Russell, peels the onions.

“It’s one week of hard work, but we all have fun with it,” Hunter said.

Article and pictures courtesy of the Times-Mail


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