GREENFIELD — Surrounded by the happy chatter of the hungry crowd at Saturday’s Cougar Cuisine buffet, Eldon Lewis took a moment to reflect.
The festive all-you-can-eat meal and accompanying silent auction bring together members of the community to raise funds for a cause that is dear to the Lewis family.
For 10 years, Cougar Cuisine has served as one of Greenfield-Central’s biggest fundraisers to support student scholarships, one of which is in memory of Lewis’ son, Todd Lewis, a G-C student who died in October 2006, just after graduation, following a lengthy battle with cancer.
“Memories – just brings things back,” Lewis said, standing in the G-C cafeteria Saturday night. “It’s a real good thing.”
The two-hour event featuring food and beverage samples drew 407 people Saturday who sampled fare from 14 local restaurants. The event raised a total of about $8,400 for G-C scholarships.
The funds are divided between the Greenfield-Central Athletic Booster Club, which sets up the spread in the cafeteria, and the Senior Class Council, which leads the auction just outside.
The booster club offers scholarships for athletes and also uses the funds to offset transportation costs for athletic events. The senior class portion of the proceeds funds memorial scholarships honoring Lewis, as well as former G-C students Zach Lett and Ben Culver.
Lett was a sophomore at G-C in February 2003 when he was killed in a car crash. Culver died in a car accident the same day he attended Lewis’ calling. He was a junior at G-C at the time.
While many current Greenfield-Central High School students are too young to remember the young men who lost their lives, Lewis said Saturday he was comforted to run into at least one member of the senior class council who remembered his son.
Alli Frazier was in elementary school the week both Lewis and Culver died, and she vividly remembers the impact on her family.
Both had been good friends and played sports with Frazier’s older brother.
“I grew up with them,” Frazier said. “They were like my older brothers.”
As a result, Frazier took pride in helping organize an event to remember them.
“It’s close to my heart,” she said. “I love seeing everyone honor … all three of them.”
The event has a dual purpose for restaurateurs; it allows them to support the community while also putting their products in front of potential customers.
Vendors donate both their time and hundreds of sample servings to make the evening a success.
Melinda Maupin, general manager of Montana Mike’s, said the restaurant has been participating since it opened in Greenfield in 2006.
The event, Maupin said, allows her to introduce the community to lesser-known items on the menu.
“People have never tried our beef tips,” Maupin said, pointing to one of the selections available Saturday the Montana Mike’s booth.
For first-time exhibitor Andy Gilliland, Cougar Cuisine served as an advertisement for the new Firehouse Subs, which opened for business in December.
Saturday, Gilliland served up brownies and meatball sub sandwiches.
“There’s still people that’s not tried us yet,” he said. “It’s good food. I tell everybody, ‘Just try it and make up your own mind.’”
As a lifelong Hancock County resident, Gilliland quickly made up his own mind about contributing to a local fundraiser.
“Just wanted to be here and participate,” he said. “It’s a great cause, too.”