May 07, 2002 11:00 pm

Union County's great and near-great will put on their aprons next week and chop up their favorite meat to create a stew that can be judged best in the county.

The stew cook-off contest and lunch, set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, is one of several events the La Grande Salvation Army will have during the week to introduce and reacquaint people with the volunteer work of the local organization at 1114 Y Ave.

Among the cooking contestants are members of the Sunrise Rotary, the La Grande Soroptimists, Women in Timber, the Union County jail cook who will prepare a "jailhouse stew," Sandy Sorrels, Sharon Dykes, John Howard, John Lamoreau, Russ West and Bruce Anderson. Diners will get a chance to vote on their favorite stew, said Patty Gooderham, chairwoman of the cook-off.

Cost of the lunch, which will include bread and salad, is $3 per person.

The week-long Salvation Army event will begin at 1:15 p.m. Monday at the Youth Center on Y Avenue, with skate boarding, karate and dance exhibitions by students. The center will serve free hot dogs and will offer door prizes, Gooderham said.

"We're trying to revive the youth center," she said. "We're looking for grants to open it."

The center, which has had some problems raising funds, has not been scheduling teen events for several months, but the center will open for a "teen night" from 6 to 10 p.m. May 17. The night will feature music by contemporary Christian bands, as well as free pizza and games.

Admission will be free, Gooderham said.

The Army's annual Civic Dinner, which honors the organization's volunteers, will take place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. May 16 at the youth center. Cost is $15 per person or $25 per couple and either chicken or salmon will be served.

To make reservations, call 963-4829.

A "grand reopening" of the Thrift Store, 315 Fir St., will feature drawings for prizes and free hot dogs and soft drinks from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Gooderham said the store has been cleaned up and the merchandise reorganized. An Eastern Oregon University business class taught by Ted Atkinson has analyzed the store's business practices and operations, she said.

—Alice Perry Linker