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Cook-off team carries on tradition of helping others

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In her four years working at the Volunteer Transportation Center, Linda J. Welsh never got a team together to compete at the annual North Country Chili Cook-Off. That changed late last year when she and cousin Jeanette A. Turner brewed up a recipe for Saturday’s 14th annual event.

“It’s something that Linda and I had started planning back in December,” Mrs. Turner said.

Mrs. Welsh was on medical leave from her position as deputy director at the Transportation Center when she died Jan. 8 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse from circulation complications caused by her battle with cancer.

Mrs. Turner, Carthage, said that she and fellow team member Melanie Shambo, Mrs. Welsh’s daughter, thought it was important to continue on with their team.

“We wanted to carry on Linda’s legacy of helping others, which was something she was dedicated to,” Mrs. Turner said. “She volunteered at many organizations; not just where she worked.”

Mrs. Welsh was involved with the American Cancer Society and American Red Cross and was a member and board member of Watertown Sunrise Rotary Club and American Legion Auxiliary — serving as president of Jefferson County Legion and Post 904 in Alexandria Bay. She also was a strong advocate for the Association of the United States Army. In 2009, Mrs. Welsh was awarded the United Way of Northern New York Community Spirit Award.

Team Linda, with a sausage-based recipe, will join at least 34 other teams at the Dulles State Office Building for the cook-off, hosted by the Jefferson County American Legion Auxiliary and assisted by American Legion Family, American Legion and Sons of the American Legion to benefit the Volunteer Transportation Center.

Event proceeds will fund transportation for veterans and their families to critical-needs appointments such as cancer treatment and dialysis. Last year, more than $40,000 was raised at the cook-off, about $8,000 more than the previous year.

“We have a lot of new teams this year,” said Samuel M. Purington, executive director of the Volunteer Transportation Center. “That’s a lot of new chili.”

Other members of Team Linda are Benjamin R. Towles and his mother, Michelle R. Reff, along with Amy Mothersell, who was a friend of Mrs. Welsh.

Mr. Towles and Mrs. Welsh formed an enduring friendship. The two didn’t know each other until Mrs. Welsh volunteered in March 2011 at a benefit for Mr. Towles, an Adams Center resident who is battling cancer. They supported each other in their cancer struggles.

Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday for the cook-off, which runs until the awards ceremony at 3 p.m.

The details
WHAT: 14th annual North Country Chili Cook-Off
WHEN/WHERE: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St. The opening ceremony is at noon.
COST: $6 for adults, $2 for children ages 12 and under and $15 for a family. For those with military ID or military affiliation, price is $1 less in the adult and child categories and $3 less for families.
HOW IT WORKS: Attendees may sample an unlimited amount of chili in a free-range atmosphere.
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