COVINGTON -- For the ninth year in a row, the early childhood classes at the Montessori School of Covington turned their classrooms into dining rooms.
About 75 Newton County community members -- including elected city and county officials, public safety workers, governmental workers, new business owners and others -- visited the school in Clark's Grove in Covington for the ninth annual Chili Lunch.
"It's one of our community service projects," said Rachel Harden, department head of the school's early childhood program. "Community service is part of our curriculum. This teaches the students to give back to the community ... and thank the community."
At the event on Monday afternoon, the 24 early childhood students ages 3 to 6 served chili, bread, dessert and drinks to their guests with the help of their dads.
"It's a bonding time between a parent and child to come to school and work together," Harden said.
Earlier in the day, the students and their dads made the chili and set up for the guests.
"It was fun, very interesting," said Kelly Brown, dad of 5-year-old Elizabeth, who helped him cut onions for the chili.
When guests started arriving about noon, the students greeted them with big smiles and waves.
"It's really hot," warned Elizabeth, who was wearing firefighter boots for the occasion as she served Firehouse Chili to Newton County firefighters.
But the guests didn't mind the heat -- Snapping Shoals EMC's Scott Fuss came back to Elizabeth for seconds.
"It's delicious, as always," he said. "We come every year. It's always good and always good service."
Guests also enjoyed vegetarian chili, white chicken chili and mild chili, in addition to dirt cake and banana pudding for dessert.
"This is very sweet and very nice," said Newton County Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler, who was a first-time guest. "They are so smart and are being so helpful and nice."