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Cabarrus Magazine

Operation BBQ Relief Serves 2 Millionth Meal During Hurricane Florence

Oct 22, 2018 12:48PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Courtesy of OBR's Facebook page @OperationBBQRelief.

Operation BBQ Relief (OBR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to feeding those who have experienced natural disasters. And they aren't just feeding people, they are feeding people freshly made BBQ. 

Founded in May 2011, OBR has since assisted over 50 communities and served over 2 million meals. After Hurricane Florence, OBR was able to serve over 220,000 meals. Since its creation, OBR has become one of the largest relief organizations based in food in the South East. 

OBR serving 120,000 meals over 13 days in tornado-stricken Joplin, Missouri.

OBR was founded in 2011 when Stan Hays and Will Cleaver saw the destruction caused by the Joplin, Missouri tornado, a community of about 500,000 residents. They loaded up their smokers and decided to cook hot meals for the victims. Competition BBQ teams from eight states answered the need to help feed displaced families, police, fire, National Guard and emergency personnel and volunteered their time and BBQ.

They've been feeding those in need of a warm meal after a disaster ever since. 

"We served our 2 millionth meal during the Florence deployment," Director of Communications Emily McGee told us. "It's a milestone that we accomplished thanks to the enormous outpouring of generosity and support from our sponsors and volunteers."

Like all deployments to disaster sites, Florence had its share of challenges. OBR partnered with the Salvation Army for distribution and prepared upwards of 40,000 meals per day. The Salvation Army distributed 55% of the meals OBR served. On top of that, OBR also provided bulk meals for the local municipalities, first responders and community centers where the city could gather to eat. 

"We also loaded up our trucks with meals and went out daily into the most hard-hit communities to ensure they received a hot meal, hope, friendship and compassion," McGee said. "I was in awe of seeing the communities pull together to help one another and support their neighbors."

McGee recalled one neighborhood OBR visited along Cape Fear, where the worst of the destruction didn't happen until a week after Florence hit. The river flooded, the water coming from central North Carolina. People were flooded out of their homes who only a few days before had opened their homes to neighbors in need.

That's the nature of the unpredictability of hurricanes.

OBR's ultimate goal is always to serve that one meal that matters in times of need. OBR hopes to provide that one meal to someone in need of hot BBQ, to give them the strength to take the first step to recovery, or to help their neighbors. Because of what the volunteer team saw during Florence, it gave them faith in the human spirit. 

Courtesy of OBR's Facebook page @OperationBBQRelief.

Volunteers almost exclusively run OBR. Even the executive team is comprised of volunteers who donate their time and talent to the mission. "Our sponsors and donors are generous and we want as much as their money to go towards helping others as possible," McGee said.

Every deployment provides new lessons, and OBR uses these lessons to improve every time they hit the field. "One of our challenges is how best to support the volunteers – a deployment is physically taxing, but it can also be emotionally overwhelming," McGee told us. "We have recently added some capacity to provide assistance there. We also are always on the lookout for volunteers with discipline expertise to help OBR during a disaster, but also throughout the year as we grow."

Interested in helping the OBR team? Visit their website to learn more! 

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