When former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr arrived Thursday evening at the Zingerman’s Raucus Caucus fundraiser to benefit the Peace Neighborhood Center, he had no linemen blocking for him.
So Michael Hedin – whose Townie’s Two Step team was competing in the fundraiser’s sandwich design contest – wheeled around from his conversation with us to pitch to Carr the virtues of his team’s two-meat sandwich. The coach was there to help judge the sandwich design contest at the heart of the fundraiser – and he was wise to Hedin’s angle: “Yeah, I always used to talk to the officials before the game, too!”
A few minutes later, Gov. Jennifer Granholm delivered remarks that kicked off the event, which raised around $18,000 for the neighborhood center, according to Rick Strutz, a managing partner of Zingerman’s Deli. Located on Maple Road near Miller Avenue, Peace Neighborhood offers after-school programming and tutoring for elementary and middle school students.
Peace Neighborhood Center
Bonnie Billups, Jr., executive director of the center, was on hand at the sandwich contest, along with director of development Kevin Lill and program director Paul Johnson, as well as several officers on the Peace Neighborhood board. Johnson said that the center was facing the same tough economic climate as every other nonprofit and for them it meant that they were using more interns from the UM School of Social Work. It also meant that he and Billups were pitching in by helping to drive the van and the bus used to shuttle students to and from the center. Billups has a commercial driver’s license endorsement, while Johnson has a chauffeur’s license.
Johnson said that he’d voted for the sandwich that actually won after all the votes at the Raucus Caucus were tallied: Number Five – “Peace of Mind.” The creation came from a team that included two sisters, Kathy and Amy Sample, and specified layers of pepper bacon, avocado, EZ mayo, tomato, mixed greens on toasted Bakehouse White bread. Johnson allowed that his vote might not have been based purely on taste. It could have been influenced by sandwich’s nod to the name of the neighborhood center
Unlike Johnson, Tom Wieder (a local attorney, who with his wife, Sue Schooner, support the Peace Neighborhood Center) said he’d made his choice for sandwich Number Five based purely on taste – which he said he’d not expected, based on the ingredient descriptions. He had figured to like the pastrami (Hedin’s “Townie’s Two Step”) best. In any case, he declared that his was “an honest vote.”
Still, the “Townie’s Two Step” found its advocates among the voters, even if it did not tally enough votes to win. Among them was former UM and NBA basketball player Jimmy King, who told us he’s now running a solar energy company in addition to working as a broadcast analyst for basketball games. He said he had a collection of mentors who gave him notes on his commentary. For example, they point out places where his timing is off. “Don’t step on your partner when he’s trying to talk,” is the kind of feedback they give. He said he liked the “Townie’s Two Step” but that it was close between a couple of other entries. What made the difference, he said, was the team’s enthusiasm.
The team’s enthusiasm also captured the attention of Rick Strutz, who awarded them the Sandwich of the Month item he’d successfully bid for in the auction part of the fundraiser.
D.J. (Doylan Jackson), a special ed teacher at Stone School, also voted for the “Townie’s Two Step” even though he had a specific suggestion for improving it: Add peppered bacon. That would give the sandwich a total of three meats. D.J. said he enjoys cooking – and frequently prepares meals for Jimmy King when he drops by for a visit.
Bob Guenzel attended the festive fundraiser as well, and we pressed him for details on how he voted – even though his position as administrator of Washtenaw County is non-party-zone in nature, and the query probably put him in an awkward spot. But you can mark Guenzel down in the column for Number Three, “Newman’s ‘Where’s #90′?”
The Rundown of the Event’s Origins
Who’s the Newman in the Number Three sandwich’s name? That’d be Al Newman. This year’s Raucus Caucus marked the second year the fundraiser has been held – inspired by Newman’s quest to sample every sandwich Zingerman’s Deli makes to determine the very best one. Newman was previously president of the Peace Neighborhood Center’s board. Said Rick Strutz, a managing partner of Zingerman’s Deli, as the event on Thursday evening was winding down, “This never would have happened without Al.”
Newman himself said he didn’t care about winning or losing the contest – the point was to raise money for the neighborhood center. Other teams, though, campaigned for their sandwiches as hard as any politician running for office.
The event has a connection to literal running as well, at least in terms of some of the social connections amongst attendees. Earlier in the day, The Chronicle had been out at Bandemer Park to shoot photos of the rowing teams, when two guys – one of whom looked like Jim Kosteva, UM community relations director – came running past on the park path, which leads along the Huron River. We weren’t sure it was Kosteva, but when he appeared at the fundraiser, it was a chance to confirm: Yep, it was him, he said. It turns out there’s a group that often runs together, starting out from the YMCA on Ann Arbor’s Old West Side. It often includes Newman and Ken Nieman, associate director of the Ann Arbor District Library, who was also at the fundraiser.