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Potluck fundraiser supports students

In a culinary hat trick, county employees nabbed all three awards for Halloween-themed goodies during a joint Superior-Douglas County Halloween fundraiser lunch Wednesday.

The real winners were local children. The $691 raised went to feed homeless students on weekends through Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank and Project Joy.

"That amounts to 174 children being fed," Laura Plys wrote on the Project Joy Facebook page.

Twenty-one employees brought homemade dishes to be judged, and two latecomers brought extra ones.

Beth Bean of the county's Department of Health and Human Services earned the award for Most Creative dish, octopus Jell-o with severed fingers. The body of the octopus was made with a mixture of Spaghettios, tomato soup and Knox gelatin. Hot dog legs carved to look like severed fingers became more realistic-looking as they dried.

Inspired by a co-worker who eats Spaghettios cold out of the can, Bean couldn't resist trying the recipe.

County worker Dave Leckel earned the title for Grossest dish — a cheese ball severed head made of cream, cheddar and parmesan cheeses, green onions, garlic powder and bacon pieces.

"It was excellent," said county employee Nancy Reinke of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Julie Peterson's pumpkin upside-down cake snagged the Best Pumpkin-based award, sweeping the competition for the county.

"It's extremely pumpkin-y and delicious, and gone," Bean said, pointing to the one scoop of dessert left in the pan.

City and county employees usually hold about four potluck fundraisers a year, donating proceeds to a different organization each time.

Monday raised Wednesday will supply bags of easy-to-open, easy-to-prepare food each Friday for homeless students, including 112 children in the Superior, Solon Springs and Maple school districts. In 2016, the BackPack Program provided more than 28,000 bags of food to children.

Project Joy was started to honor the legacy of Ply's husband, Patrick, a businessman and community leader who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2012. He was very community-minded, Plys said.

The family decided to focus on helping kids, but in an area that wasn't already funded. They settled on the BackPack Program.

More help is on the way. The sixth annual Project Joy event takes place 5-9 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Duluth Curling Club, 327 Harbor Drive. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for children age 6-12, free for children 5 and younger, and includes appetizers, desserts, coffee bar, client auction, cash bar and live entertainment. Proceeds are earmarked for the backpack program.

Visit or the Project Joy Facebook page for more information.