TUFF, which stands for Texas United for Freedom, holds Cooking 4 Courage to raise funds for different organizations in Montgomery County that help veterans.
Cooking 4 Courage was held Nov 8-9 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
TUFF is a local non-profit organization that was started five years ago to raise funds for bring awareness to and honor veterans, active military and first responders, according to TUFF President Gari Lynn Hessong.
“Cooking 4 Courage is a barbecue cook-off that we’ve put on for veterans and first responders to celebrate Veterans Day,” Hessong said. “Our beneficiaries this year are Conroe VFW Post 4709, Tri-County Veterans Assistance, Lone Survivor Foundation and our own mission, which is called Boots 2 Badges.”
Jason Rinn, TUFF Chairman, said Boots 2 Badges is a program where they take veterans, who are coming out of service, and give them some financial incentives to go to police or fire academies, and then re-employ them back in Montgomery County.
TUFF provides other assistance in Montgomery County.
“We have done things from helping with Harvey; we cooked food and sent it out to people who were flooded,” Hessong said. “We also have a TUFF kids program, where we’ve put on appreciation dinners for our first responders in the Montgomery County area.”
Hessong said close to 90 cook-off teams participated in Cooking 4 Courage this year.
“It grows every year, our vendor list has grown,” Hessong said. “We have a kids cookoff also, which they’ve grown to 20 teams this year. We get the kids involved and the Constables help them cook and whatever the kids need.”
Jason Rinn said the kids have raised money for law enforcement through Cooking 4 Courage.
“The kids actually raised money for the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office several years ago for fingerprinting equipment,” Rinn said. “It was a total of $5,000 that went to the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office as well as the Magnolia Police Department.”
Hessong said this year’s beneficiaries of Cooking 4 Courage will each receive $7,500.
“We’re spreading the wealth in our county is what we’re trying to do, and promote the appreciation to our veterans.”
Ashley Taylor, Texas Regional Director for the Lone Survivor Foundation, said they’ve very grateful to receive funds from Cooking 4 Courage.
“It’s huge, because the Lone Survivor Foundation is strictly privately funded, so donors like TUFF are how we serve our veterans throughout the years,” she said.
Taylor said the Lone Survivor Foundation empowers veterans through introducing different therapeutic tools at two retreat facilities.
“We have one in Texas down on the Bolivar Peninsula, and we have another facility that’s being built in North Carolina,” Taylor said. “During these retreats that our combat veterans attend, they’re introduced to different therapeutic tools so that they can gain the knowledge and information.” “They can then go home and access these mental health tools on their own.”
Close to 90 teams participated in the cookoff at Cooking 4 Courage this year.
Montgomery County Pct. 1 Constable Philip Cash had a cook-off team there called “Team Cash.”
“The group out here (TUFF) has been doing this for several years. This is our third year to be involved,” Cash said. “They support these different groups that support our veterans. These guys have given it all for us, and now it’s a way for us to give back to them.”
Another team who participated in the cook-off again is the “Whitewater Cowboys.”
“We have a number of veterans here on the cook team, and my company provides services for Lone Survivor Foundation, who is the benefactor of this event today, so I came out here to support them,” said Whitewater Cowboy team member Cathy Gonzalez.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady was the guest speaker at the Cooking 4 Courage Ceremony held Nov. 9 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
“Every dollar raised here today is going to have a real impact on the lives of our local veterans,” Brady told the crowd. “It’s raising awareness, it’s supporting programs that assist veterans re-entering the civilian life, or helping to treat PTSD. What’s more important than helping our veterans, those who are willing to sacrifice all so that we can celebrate and join here today in our community, in security, in freedom.”