Fun, chili and ‘awkward’ photos

Giles: FUD holiday fundraiser ‘for the kids’

  • First Utility District general manager Bruce Giles, dressed as “Cousin Eddie” from the “Christmas Vacation” movie, put his own spin on the group’s ‘Awkward Family Photos’ fundraiser, which since has been turned into a calendar. - Photo submitted

  • Unloading 131 children’s “Dear Santa” Christmas gifts at the McNabb Center were, from left, First Utility District employees Chloe Pool (communications manager), Jimmy Miller (distribution), Kole Pritchett (Field Services tech) and Doyle Noe (project inspector). - Photo submitted

  • Darris Upton, chief of staff for Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, was one of four chili tasters who judged the FUD employee cook-off. - Photo submitted

First Utility District employees work hard throughout the year — but they play hard, too, especially during the holidays.

They raise money throughout the year through a program they call “Christmas for the Kids,” which provides gifts for children through the McNabb Center.

This year, they sponsored more than $16,000 worth of gifts for 131 children, which were delivered earlier this month.

FUD employees also host an annual chili cook-off, held this year on Wednesday, Dec. 1, which not only raised $3,000 but also was a chance to show off cooking skills and highlight another “fun-raising” project: an “Awkward Family Photos” project turned into a calendar.

FUD general manager Bruce Giles, so flush with the Christmas spirit he eagerly dressed as “Cousin Eddie” from the “Christmas Vacation” movie for the Awkward Family Photos project, said he would “look silly all day if it’s for the kids.”

Several high-profile volunteers helped judge the contest, ultimately won by Tate Bowden (first place) and Greg Parker (second place).

Judges included Darris Upton, chief of staff for Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs; Jane Jolley, also from Mayor Jacobs’ office; Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Julie Blaylock; and Jessica Hill, director of Community Relations for the McNabb Center.

“This is one of my favorite things that I look forward to all year,” said frequent taster Upton, as he dove into more than 30 different chili offerings. “It’s got great participation and it’s fun.

“... When we find a community partner that is already so committed on the front end, we love it,” he added.

“Hats off to Bruce and all his employees. You’ve got to respect all the people here for what they do.”

“We have other agencies who help us, but there is no other company that participates as an entire group like FUD,” said Hill, who also noted FUD “participates in the Dear Santa program by sponsoring children’s wish lists.”

Hill said FUD has been an ongoing contributor for almost a decade. “The gifts purchased and donated by FUD support children who are clients of the McNabb Center and their siblings.

“So, they might be kids who are receiving mental health treatment or are participating in one of our social services or substance use treatment programs,” Hill added.

“We could not be more amazed by the hard work and generosity of every member of our team,” FUD communications manager Chloe Pool said.

For more information on a calendar, message FUD through its Facebook page, where readers also may follow “12 Days of Awkward Family Photos” currently under way.