DEL MAR, Calif. – Nearly 20 Southern California-based credit unions gathered at the Del Mar Race Track in Del Mar, Calif., Saturday to cook and serve delicious chili recipes, show off festive booth decorations and raise money for their favorite charities. Click through the slideshow to see highlights from the 4th Annual Xpress Data, Inc. Credit Union Chili Challenge. Judges gave the $12.2 billion, Santa Ana-based SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union first place in the chili competition. Pictured are branch managers Camille Sidodi, left, Dave Smith, second from right, and Alex Rodriguez, right. The $237 million Cabrillo Credit Union in San Diego took the title of Best Booth and $1,000 for its charity of choice. Pictured from left to right are credit union employees Hilary Dene, Idalia Rodriguez, Rudy Torres and Kirsten Allen. The chili cookoff’s judges pose for a group photo. Judges included CU Times Managing Editor Natasha Chilingerian (center, in patterned long-sleeve blouse) and CU Broadcast host Mike Lawson, directly to her left. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) Judges make final notes about the various chili recipes before determining the winners.  The event included a display of classic cars. Sparky, the mascot for the $1 billion, Los Angeles-based Firefighters First Credit Union, gets down to the music. Firefighters First took the award for Best Showmanship and $1,000 for its charity of choice. The $748 million, Oceanside-based Pacific Marine Credit Union took third place in the chili challenge and received $1,500 for its charity of choice. The credit union also snagged $2,000 for its charity as the winner in the People’s Choice chili competition. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) SchoolsFirst employees accept their first place award in the chili competition and $5,000 for their charity. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) Firefighters First employees accept their award for Best Showmanship. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) The $948 million Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo took second place in the chili competition and $3,500 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography)

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to, part of your ALM digital membership.

Your access to unlimited content isn’t changing.
Once you are an ALM digital member, you’ll receive:

  • Critical information including comprehensive product and service provider listings via the Marketplace Directory, CU Careers, resources from industry leaders, webcasts, and breaking news, analysis and more with our informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and CU Times events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

Already have an account?


© 2023 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Natasha Chilingerian

Natasha Chilingerian has been immersed in the credit union industry for over a decade. She first joined CU Times in 2011 as a freelance writer, and following a two-year hiatus from 2013-2015, during which time she served as a communications specialist for Xceed Financial Credit Union (now Kinecta Federal Credit Union), she re-joined the CU Times team full-time as managing editor. She was promoted to executive editor in 2019. In the earlier days of her career, Chilingerian focused on news and lifestyle journalism, serving as a writer and editor for numerous regional publications in Oregon, Louisiana, South Carolina and the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, she holds experience in marketing copywriting for companies in the finance and technology space. At CU Times, she covers People and Community news, cybersecurity, fintech partnerships, marketing, workplace culture, leadership, DEI, branch strategies, digital banking and more. She currently works remotely and splits her time between Southern California and Portland, Ore.

More from this author


Credit Union Times

Join Credit Union Times

Don’t miss crucial strategic and tactical information necessary to run your institution and better serve your members. Join Credit Union Times now!

  • Free unlimited access to Credit Union Times' trusted and independent team of experts for extensive industry news, conference coverage, people features, statistical analysis, and regulation and technology updates.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and Credit Union Times events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join Credit Union Times

Copyright © 2023 ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved.