Operation Barbecue Relief Serves One Millionth Meal!
By Bill Jones, MABA Board Member and KCBS Master Judge, Table Captain, & Life Member
We are going to take a break from the articles of What’s In The Box for this edition to announce a very important number…
Recently Operation BBQ Relief reached this very lofty number by serving their one millionth meal to disaster survivors in Hammond, LA. One million is a number never envisioned when OBR set it stakes at their first disaster in 2011 in Joplin, Missouri. No one wants a disaster to occur. But OBR has been there to give a person a meal prepared by some of the great cooks in the BBQ world. Since those meager beginnings of, “Let’s go help these people who have lost everything”, to Hammond, LA and the devastating flooding that occured, OBR has branched out to numerous locations. From New York to Florida, West Virginia to Louisiana, Oklahoma to Illinois, Texas, and numerous stops in between, OBR has been there to feed victims and first responders.
So who or what is Operaton Barbecue Relief? OBR is the brain child of Stan Hayes and Will Cleaver. When the tornado hit Joplin, MO that fateful day in May of 2011, Will and Stan both realized, separately, that there was going to be a need for food. They knew each other as competitors from the BBQ circuit, and quickly found they both had the same thought. Competition barbecue team cooks are some of the best cooks and people out there. They also own equipment that can cook large quantities of food at a time, can respond, and be self-sufficient upon arrival. Add this all together and you have the foundation of a BBQ relief team that could be nationwide and respond quickly when called. And as we all know, barbecue teams LOVE to help and give back.
In recent years, OBR has really taken off. As time has passed, staffing has grown and now includes state leads who will help coordinate and advise the OBR home office of the needs in their respective locations. We also have begun adapting to disaster plans on a national level with FEMA, USFA, NFA, etc. OBR has warehouse locations and trailers to deploy with needed start-up materials like tables, chairs, pans, utensils, lights, etc. The cook teams arrive with their cookers and food is ready to be cooked and prepped.
Coming from an Incident Management Team perspective for a disaster, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into by being assigned the lead role for Virginia. Disasters are nothing pretty. Ever. For those of you lucky to have never looked into the face of a person who has lost everything, short of the clothes they have on, you will never forget the joy of receiving food cooked and given to them and their reaction to someone caring enough to provide it. The destruction from a tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, even a man made disaster, can overwhelm a community. OBR’s arrival to provide meals is a welcome break from the disaster.
Recently I was asked to take the lead in the floods of West Virginia. This happened to occur on the same weekend as the Covington, VA BBQ Contest. Covington teams all donated left over BBQ pork to me to take to White Sulphur Springs and get a small team up there to start with feeding Saturday evening and Sunday until additional resources could arrive. Tommy Houston of Checkered Pig heard my comments at the contest, drove all the way home to Martinsville Va, loaded his trailer back up with 80 pork butts and several cases of loins and drove all the way back past Covington Monday to begin cooking. I returned with a pick up load of butts and chicken and additional supplies. Kenny Nadeau of Uncle Kenny’s BBQ Team drove to Nitro, WV to set up so we had two operations going at the same time. Our White Sulphur team included several other barbecue cooks along with a great team of volunteers headed up by Buchannan, WV contest organizer Jody Light. She and her team were a tremendous help to give back to a community flat out washed out.
In White Sulphur Springs we got to meet many people whose lives have been turned upside down. One young couple came with their two small children who had with them what could best be described as a stuffed bunny. It was hard to tell for sure as it was torn up and dirty and had seen much better days. The parents told us their story of being away from home when the storm hit, to when they finally were able to make it home the next day to find their home and parents home both gone. They have found pieces of furniture and clothes up to three miles downstream of their two homes. But at that time, three days after the storm, they still did not know where his parents were. It was tough listening to their story and countless others. But as warm as the food Kenny and Tommy were cooking, it was warming our hearts to know in some small way we were helping.
We are very happy with our teams and volunteers responders when a call out is made. If you have never been before and wish to go, please remember you must sign up and be assigned, so please visit Operation BBQ Relief’s web site. You do not need to own a large volume cooker. Hands and feet are also needed to make this happen. And sometimes a shoulder to cry on. Please consider volunteering your time to go on a disaster to help or perhaps lend your support financially. Unlike many other organizations, the money donated to OBR goes 100% for food, utensils, etc… About every $1 donated will feed a meal to a person in need.
I am pleased to be the VA lead for OBR and one of the committee members for planning the BBQ Gives Back Contest in March, 2017. The committee chose to make our beneficiary, Operation BBQ Relief, and as a fund raiser to help in the future of a disaster, whether it be here locally or elsewhere. Please consider signing up for the contest or making a donation to OBR or attending a disaster in the future.
‘til next time,