In 2011 a devastating tornado hit Joplin, MO, leaving residents and first responders struggling to survive. A small group of competitive barbecuers from Kansas City decided they needed to do something to help. Since BBQ is what they know best they rallied friends from the BBQ competition world to join them in their efforts to travel to Joplin and feed as many of those in need as they could. At the time they thought they would be there only 3-4 days with the hope of serving 1,000-2,000 people. They ended up being there 13 days and serving over 120,000 meals to shelters, hospitals, senior living communities, the Humane Society, and first responders. Volunteers loaded up vehicles and delivered plate-fulls of food directly to residents in the impacted areas. After that experience this group of dedicated BBQ Angels knew they were on to something and that is how Operation BBQ Relief was born.
Since 2011 Operation BBQ Relief’s team of volunteers and fellow BBQ aficionados has grown as they continue to serve up hot meals in times of need. “We’re a disaster relief non-profit that goes out and serves hot bbq meals to the people who are effected by the disasters and the first responders that come out to these communities to help them”. says CEO and Founder Stan Hays. “When you hand somebody a hot bbq meal after they just lost their house, God forbid they lost a loved one during the time, and they thank you…. I mean, all I did was cook a pork butt or a pork loin to help them but if I take the hurt away for 10 minutes or they forget about it for 10 minutes it makes a huge impact on their life”, said Hays after Hurricane Harvey in Houston where Operation BBQ Relief served over 300,000 meals.
This past September they partnered with the Salvation Army in Wilmington, NC with 15 mobile feeding units with certified food service workers and emotional and spiritual care staff to feed, hydrate, and give hope to first responders and people impacted by Hurricane Florence. BBQ Relief came prepared to serve 25,000 meals each day until the flood waters receded. Just a couple of weeks ago their relief trucks rolled into Tallahassee, Florida after Hurricane Michael ravaged the area. Smokers were fired up and a compound of trucks, tents, generators, light towers, campers and volunteers set up shop to start serving up to 40,000 meals a day for the next two weeks to Floridians in need.
“I sometimes feel overwhelmed as I talk to volunteers and hear their stories about how Operation BBQ Relief has impacted their lives. I’m even more struck when I meet someone that remembers the hot meal they received from us during a deployment and the gratitude that they show us.. We have volunteers that are now paying it forward for what they received by volunteering to help in other communities affected! They truly have a servant’s heart.” – Stan Hays
How you can help:
Learn more about Operation BBQ Relief
DONATE to help keep their mission going.
See more stories about Operation BBQ Relief:
- BBQ Beat PODCAST – Kevin Sandridge
- After Hurricane Irma, group handing out bulk BBQ at Germain Arena
News Press / USA News Today Network – Joseph Cranney
- Operation BBQ Relief Partners with the Salvation Army in Wilmington, NC
- Harry Connick Jr. Interviews founders of Operation BBQ Relief
Want to Learn some BBQ tips from these amazing BBQ Masters? Watch below to get the scoop on pull pork from Operation BBQ Relief Founders Stan Hays and Will Cleaver: