Mike is originally from the Belleville area and moved here in 2017 with his wife Andrea, a Woodlawn graduate. They have 2 daughters and really enjoy the quiet that comes with country life.
Mike is a food lover, BBQ champion, and home chef extraordinaire! He enjoys trying new dishes, experimenting with flavors, and creating new dishes for his family and friends to try.
Benjamin came to Mt. Vernon shortly after graduating from SIU. It is here where he met the love of his life, Molly. Benjamin is the father to two beautiful daughters Luna and Daisy. Many of you know Ben as the "Pepsi Man" here in town and he wanted to share some of the other uses for soda in his entry tonight. When Benjamin is not at Pepsi, you can usually find him spending time with his family or arguing sports with someone. This is Ben's third time participating in Men's cooking for CASA, but his first dessert entry. He hopes this chocolate cake becomes a favorite in your home, but make sure you have some milk in the fridge.
Mike is a food lover, BBQ champion, and home chef extraordinaire! He enjoys trying new dishes, experimenting with flavors, and creating new dishes for his family and friends to try.
Jamie has called Mt. Vernon home for 26 years. He and his wife, Brooke, have 7 children and 6 grandchildren. He is active in fundraising for the breast cancer charity, Remember Betty Foundation, and in his spare time Jamie enjoys cooking and all things St. Louis sports. Jamie is a sales representative for Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, and is representing SSM Hospice.
Robbie has been a chef for fifteen plus years now. He went to school in Nashville, Tennessee. This is his third year participating in this event and is a previous Golden Skillet winner. Robbie is here this evening representing RARE Chophouse
Ryan is the Branch Manager at Oliver and Associates, LLC, an independent insurance agency in Mount Vernon and Carbondale. Ryan is married to his wife, Amanda, of 16 years and they have 3 children, Landon, Hayden, and Delaney. Ryan has lived in Mount Vernon since 2005 and is originally from Southern Indiana. Ryan coaches baseball at Rome Grade school and enjoys watching his kids play sports. In his spare time he enjoys cheering for the 2021 World Series Champion Atlanta Braves and Indiana University basketball.
Doug has been a firefighter/paramedic for the Mount Vernon Fire Department for 16 years, along with working part time as an ER Tech at Crossroads Hospital. He currently lives in Mount Vernon with his wife of 5 years, Stephanie, and two daughters, Maliyah and Josephine. His hobbies include brewing his own beer, being the co-leader for Josie’s Girl Scout troop and cooking for his family and friends. Doug also loves to torment his wife by adding new Christmas inflatables to their yard each year, even though she secretly loves them. He also enjoys taking Josie magnet fishing in the summers along with kayaking with the family. This is Doug's 9th year as a Chef at Men Cooking for CASA, during which time he has taken home 4 Golden Skillets.
Jude is a Junior at Mt Vernon high school. He moved to Mount Vernon with his parents Mandy and Andrew Singer, and his younger sister, Juliet, when he was in the 8th grade. He is President of the Health Occupation Students of America. He currently has a 4.0 GPA. His goal is to become a doctor. He is also into to strength training and plans to compete in a powerlifting competition in March.
Carl Bundy is a life long Mt. Vernon resident with his wife, Valerie, of 19 years. Carl is an avid beer enthusiast, a Mt. Vernon Festival’s and Mt. Vernon Homebrewer’s Festival Board member. Carl is a 2021 graduate of St. Louis University’s Brewing Science and Operations Certificate Program, Cicerone Certified Beer Server, and part-time Brewhouse Assistant at St. Nicholas Brewing Company in DuQuoin, Il. This is Carl’s second year cooking for CASA, representing The Mt. Vernon Homebrewer’s Festival taking place on June 4th!
Zach is a 30 year old Mount Vernon resident. He has been cooking since childhood which has lead him to work at several types of restaurants. Zach someday wants to own a food truck, where he can whip up his favorite signature dish, Sushi Mounds.
Mike was born in raised in Woodlawn, IL where he currently resides in Mt. Vernon with his wife, Amanda, and their 2 children, Jackson (15) and Tucker (6), and their 3 dogs (2 boxers and 1 toy poodle). His favorite hobby is anything baseball! Mike currently runs an American Family insurance branch here in Mt. Vernon as well. A fun fact is that he actually taught kindergarten for a year!
Chef Adam Colón (cologne) is the owner of Chef Adam's Food is Life food truck, based out of Mount Vernon, IL. He is originally from Aurora, IL where he graduated high-school in 2002 and then joined the USMC serving until 2006. Adam has lived in this area for 8 years now and is the father of 9 children and loves being a blended family with his girlfriend, Jennifer Hilliard. They love raising their children and starting their businesses in Southern Illinois.
Dave is the current Illinois 117th district State Representative. Dave first took office as State Rep. in January 2017 after being elected in 2016. He currently represents all or parts of Franklin, Hamilton, and Williamson Counties.
Dave and his wife Penny Severin reside in Benton. Dave and Penny have been married for 44 years. They have one married son and two grandsons. Dave is the current owner of All-Stars-n-Stitches in Benton and Graphics Galore in Marion. The two businesses specialize in trophy making, embroidery, laser engraving, and graphic arts of all kinds for businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations. Dave started his first business in his garage, built a successful enterprise, and employed dozens of hard-working Southern Illinoisans throughout his 30 years as a small business owner/operator.
Prior to taking office as State Representative, Dave served on the Benton School Board for 29 years. Dave served as Director of Southern Illinois Special Olympics for 11 years, served on the board of Centerstone for 20 years, and served as a youth pastor at his church.
As a three-term member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Rep. Severin has served as a member of several key House committees including Veterans’ Affairs, Higher Education, Elementary and Secondary Education, Tourism, and most recently the House Redistricting Committee. Rep. Severin is pro-life, pro-second Amendment, and favors a low-tax, low-regulation government philosophy. Rep. Severin has sponsored legislation that would lower taxes, decrease regulation on businesses and individuals, and strengthen ethics laws to rid Illinois' government of corruption.
Dave is a candidate for re-election in what will be the new 116th legislative district. The new 116th district will encompass all or parts of Edwards, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Marion, Wabash, Wayne, and White Counties.
Nick is a Mount Vernon resident, married to his wife, Katie, for 9 years and they have two lovely daughters, Giuliana (8 years old) and Violet (5 years old). He is also the owner of Beacon Insurance Group.
This is Ross’ 7th year participating in Men Cooking for CASA. Ross graduated from MVTHS in 2008 before playing a year of golf at Rend Lake College and ultimately graduating from the University of Alabama (ROLL TIDE!!) with a degree in Operations Management. After a brief stint in Houston, TX, Ross found an opportunity to bring him back home to Mt. Vernon, IL. He now works for Affordable Gas and Electric as an Energy Management Consultant. He is married to the love of his life, Juli, and now has 2 kids, Nolan David and Rya Lynn. Ross is also in his 7th year as a member of the CASA Board of Directors.
Jim is a VP/Commercial Banker at Peoples National Bank in Mt. Vernon and is recently celebrating 25 years of employment with this community based financial institute. He is a lifelong resident of Southern Illinois. He is married to Lisa Flagg, who is retired from the Illinois Department of Family Services and recently started her own business, Flagg Consulting For Kids LLC. They have four children Garrett and Malissa Flagg, Heath and Ashleigh Armstrong, Allison Olden and Mark and Beth Ann Bishop. They also have nine precious grandchildren! Jim is active in community, civic and charitable activities serving the Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Mt. Vernon. He also volunteers for the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts and supports the Lifeboat Alliance. He is an avid outdoorsman and sports enthusiast. Jim is thrilled to be a part of Peoples National Bank who is a big supporter and advocate for CASA. This will be his second opportunity to shine as a chef.
Roger was born and raised in Jefferson County. He is married to his wife, Neesa, and they have three children, Joel, Carter and Mari. Roger was a policer officer for Mt. Vernon for 25 years, 8 months and 5 days. He retired once he was elected as Jefferson County Coroner in November 2016 and still holds the position.
Jason is the manager of King City Title, here in Mt. Vernon. He is also the President of Mt. Vernon Festivals, Inc. and Chairman for the Mt. Vernon Fall Festival.
Kirk is a graduate of McKendree University, where he majored in Sociology and played golf for the Bearcats. After work, he enjoys time with his family, playing golf, and spending time outdoors. He’s an insurance agent with Oliver and Associates and also owns 5k storage, a boat and camper storage facility located in Bonnie, IL
Eric is the Creative Arts Pastor at Central Christian Church. Has a beautiful wife named Adrienne and two kids, Blakely and Beau. He is a two time Golden Skillet winner in the soup and dessert categories and is looking to add a 3rd tonight. If he wins, he’s going to Disney World.
Scott works alongside his wife (Julie) as an attorney for Quinn Law & Mediation, LLC in Mt. Vernon, as well as for the Jefferson County Public Defender's Office as the full-time Guardian Ad Litem. Scott and Julie have five children: Amelia, Grant, Nathan, Veronica, and Brendan. Scott also is the author of two science fiction novels: paperback and Kindle editions of Outside Interference are currently available at Amazon.com; Parts Unknown is scheduled to be released in May 2022. This is Scott's sixth time Cooking for CASA. Scott was awarded the Golden Skillet for his Mulligatawny that he made in 2020.
REVEREND WILLIAM “RON” LASH
Charlie Heck local resident and business owner. He is the owner of Heck’s Excavating and Demolition, as well as the Owner of Heck’s Logistics. Charlie is also the Mt.Vernon Township trustee.
Cory Capps is proud to call Mt. Vernon his home. He is the owner/operator of the newly founded Capps Realty. This is first year participating in the event as a chef. Cory grew up in Belle Rive and is a graduate of Mount Vernon Township High School. He enjoys traveling and hanging with friends in his spare time.
SHERIFF JEFF BULLARD
Wes attended Mt. Vernon Township High School, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for both undergraduate and master's degrees in biological sciences. He also created and coordinated a zoology laboratory manual, which was used in SIU Edwardsville's undergraduate introductory classes. While in graduate school, Wes was a teaching assistant for physiology. Upon completion of his master's degree, six of his research posters were published along with a masters degree thesis. In June of 2015 he graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine. His passion for teaching carried forward through dental school where he was given the opportunity to be a crown and bridge tutor. Wes received the Leaders on Occlusion and TMD award while in dental school.
His passion is dentistry. As a child, he knew that dentistry would become his future career. Dentistry embraces all of his perceptual talents, past work experiences, personal and professional goals, and is the capstone of his professional career.
Wes enjoys participating in community outreach by actively volunteering for missions both inside and outside of the United States. He has traveled to Brazil once to cater to those in need of dental care along the Amazon River. He has also traveled to Romania twice to serve the needs of orphans. Furthermore, his passion is world missions and he’s traveled to Poland and Thailand. Currently, he is a member of the American Dental Association, American Dental Association Advisory Circle, Illinois State Dental Society, and Academy of General Dentistry. Wes gives back to the community by volunteering on the Jefferson County Health Department Board of Health, and in the Media (Lighting) Department of Central Christian Church.
In his practice, Wes performs all aspects of general dentistry including: full mouth reconstructions, implants, bridges, crowns, veneers, dentures, partial dentures, equilibrations, bite splints, periodontal therapy (including cleanings), endodontic therapy, amalgam restorations, and composite restorations. He believes that teaching people how to properly take care of their teeth and maintain proper oral hygiene is at the cusp of his mission statement for your dental health.
Travis grew up in Bonnie, Illinois and he is a life-long resident of Jefferson County. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Angel Allen, and they have an 11 year old son named Jake. Travis has proudly served Jefferson County as their Sheriff, Ina Police Chief and as a Mount Vernon Police Officer. He is currently pursuing his law degree at the Southern Illinois School of Law.
Travis has announced his intentions to seek re-election to the Office of Jefferson County Sheriff in 2022. Travis believes that community policing and community involvement have to be a top priority for law enforcement in today’s ever-changing environment. While he was Sheriff, he was able to start the Jefferson County Work Camp, The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, The Halloween costume drive, the winter coat drive, Christmas at the courthouse, they proudly displayed In God We Trust Decals on all of their squad cars, and they fought off the Freedom From Religion Foundation when they demanded the removal of the Nativity Scene from the Christmas display at the courthouse. If re-elected Jefferson County Sheriff, he will not only expand the current programs but he will create more community oriented programs. Travis hopes to set the standard for community policing. Angel, Jake, and Travis ask for your support in the 2022 election for Jefferson County Sheriff. He looks forward to working with all members of the community for a brighter tomorrow.
Mark was born and raised in Mount Vernon and is the owner of Men In White Painting, a full service painting company based out of Mt Vernon, but serving the entire Southern Illinois region. He is one of four sons of Richard and Brenda Black.
Mark is a home-school graduate and attended college at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH. He met his bride, Nicole, at college. Their five children help them attempt to live a country lifestyle as they have raised chickens, goats, pigs, dogs, cats and a large garden. Not known for his cooking prowess, this is Mark’s 5th year at Men Cooking for CASA. He is happy to support a great organization and a great cause.
Jeff was born in Carbondale, IL in 1969. He was raised by parents Mike and Nancy Bullard, who moved to Bluford, IL in 1974. Jeff attended Webber Township High School and graduated an honor roll student in 1987. He graduated from SEMO in 1991 with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Economics.
Jeff began his career in law enforcement in 1991 with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Jeff was hired by the Mt. Vernon Police Department in 1997. He retired in 2018 as Detective Captain and High-Risk Team Assistant Commander for MVPD. In his 8+ years as Detective Captain the division had a 100% clearance rate for murder investigations. He received 14 awards and commendations for performance involving all his assignments.
From 2010 to 2020, Jeff was an adjunct professor at Rend Lake College and spent this decade part-time in the education field sharing his experiences. He created and taught criminal justice courses, provided active shooter and firearms training, instructed at the part-time police academy, and still teaching concealed carry classes. In 2017, Jeff graduated from Missouri Baptist University with a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration. He finished with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
In November of 2018 Jeff was elected Sheriff of Jefferson County, retired from the police department, and is currently serving his first term. Since becoming Sheriff, he has hosted 16 fundraiser concealed carry classes, raising $31,990 for local charitable organizations. Two of these were for CASA.
Jeff resides in Waltonville and is married to Jeannie. He has three sons and one stepson: Zack (28) with his wife Hyeri, Jeffrey Jr (30), Dawson (20), and Will (18). He is a member of the Family Life Church and volunteers as a safety team member. Jeff desires to make an impact wherever he can in his career. As a career criminal justice professional, his oath to serve and protect involves children every week. As a CASA board member, he hopes to further his ability to prevent future child victims and find ways to improve services to those already in harm’s way.
Reverend Ron Last was born in 1955 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Elementary School and Shortridge High School, Indianapolis. Ron served in the US Air Force, honorably Discharged E-4, 1976-1982. He attended Rend Lake College, Ina, IL. He is married to Carolyn J. Lash (40 years) with five children and is a grandfather of 12. Ron has been the Pastor of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon since 2000. He is a current member Jefferson County Sherriff’s Merit Board and Board member Jefferson County CASA.
He retired from Illinois Department of Corrections (30 years), served as a Correctional Officer, Correctional Counselor II, Drug Counselor, Hostage Negotiator, Temporary Chaplain, Employee Assistance Coordinator.
Ron’s past endeavors include being the former Pastor of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Mounds, IL (1993-1998), being a Moderator of Mt Olive Baptist District Association 2011-2018, past President of the Mt Olive Baptist District Association Sunday School/BTU Congress, past 1st Vice Moderator of the Mt Olive Baptist District Association, Councilman of Mt Vernon City Council, 2011-15, past Vice President Jefferson County Ministerial Association, former Vice President, Jefferson County Comprehensive Services, as well as the past Board member of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation and past Vice Chair Minority Affairs Human Relations Commission in Mt Vernon, past President, Jefferson County Branch NAACP, past member of the Southside Community Action Committee, past member of the Board of Directors- Jefferson County Housing Authority, past Vice President of the Board of Associates St Mary’s/Good Samaritan Regional Health Center, past member of the Board of Education Bethel School Dist 82, Mt Vernon (1992-1998).
Governor candidate Scott Schluter is an Iraq war veteran and father living in Marion, Illinois. He attended Southeastern Illinois College where he graduated with two degrees in Diesel Technology. Scott is a life-long resident of Southern Illinois where he works as a Diesel Mechanic. He is currently the Chair of the Southern Illinois Libertarian Party and Senior Vice Commander of VFW post 1301. Scott is a staunch believer in the principles of the United States Constitution and wants to bring those principles back to the Illinois government.
Josh and Chrissy Finley have made many lasting friendships in Jefferson County as the couple volunteer their time to give back to the community they call home.
Josh was originally born in Centralia, before moving to Sandoval at age 10 and attended school at Sandoval with his younger sister Amanda Finley (Peebles). Josh grew up playing sports and playing in the BlackHawk band under the direction of Mount Vernon resident Rob Dycus.
Chrissy was born in Blue Island and moved to Park Forest, where she attended school. Chrissy grew up with younger brother Mark Todd Jr. Chrissy enjoys spending time with a large family in the Chicagoland area. The Finleys said their family is famously known for the “Piggin Out with the Marquardt’s” family pig roast each year where family comes in from all over the country to attend.
Their children are Devin Finley, Alyssa Finley and Addisyn Finley. Josh and Chrissy have many friends they also consider family in the area over the nearly 17 years they have lived here and way too many to list.
"Just check out Josh’s Facebook page and you’ll see how quickly the people you meet in your life turn into family," Chrissy said.
When they have free time, Josh enjoys bicycle riding, golf, hunting, fishing, fine dining, playing music and travel. Chrissy enjoys bicycle riding, hunting, fine dining, travel and arts and crafts, specializing in furniture refinishing. Josh said that he loves golf while Chrissy said she did not.
"We both enjoy entertaining in our home with our annual Christmas party being the highlight," Chrissy said. "This coming year may be extra special with a local historical home purchase right here in Mount Vernon."
Josh is a financial representative with Country Financial. He specializes in retirement and insurance services. His office is located at 3307 Broadway St. in Mount Vernon. Chrissy is an employee of the State of Illinois.
The couple met in 2003 and married in 2005. Josh discussed how they both met with a sense of humor and nostalgia and explained that the following story is completely from his perspective.
"We met while both working at Lowe's in Mount Vernon. Funny story, when we first met, I was not Chrissy’s favorite person and in fact it was quite the opposite. We didn’t see eye to eye on much and she might have been a little difficult to deal with,” Josh said. “But after some time and learning we were quite a bit alike we dated for about a year before she gave in and decided to marry me.”
Josh has been Rotary President, on the Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Chamber Small Business Council, CASA, Jefferson County Operation Iraqi Freedom and Lowe’s Hero Project Leader. Josh and Chrissy proudly volunteer or sponsor as many charitable causes as possible in Jefferson County.
“We enjoy hanging out with our friends, bike riding with our informal bike group in Jefferson County led by one of our best friends we call “Amazin Papazian” aka Dr. Jacques Papazian and dinners out at our local restaurants,” Josh said.
Chrissy and Josh both really love living in Jefferson County and have made this their home.“We have met some of the most amazing people here. With our nearly 17 years in this community we could not imagine living anywhere else. This is our home and we are proud to live here and have raised our family here,” Josh said. “We look forward to many more years in this amazing community and absolutely love where we live.”