North Dallas, Texas (Tornado) / 1,450 Meals Over 2 Days

On the night of October 20, 2019, a severe storm system moved across the Southeast United States, spawning 10 tornadoes and causing damage across Texas. The worst of the damage was around Dallas, TX, where an EF3 tornado created a 15-mile path of destruction in its wake and knocking out power to
more than 242,000 homes and businesses.

With support from our generous sponsors (such as, Lowe's Home Improvement for letting us cook and serve in their parking lot and Sunbelt Rentals for the generator and forklift), The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services USA for helping to distribute our meals throughout the impacted communities, and our local Volunteers, we were able to deploy less than 24 hours after the disaster.

Over the course of 2 days, OBR provided 1450 hot meals to residents in need and first responders, as well as to the Lowe’s and Farmers Insurance employees who worked to help impacted residents get the products and assistance they needed.

Grand Bahama Island (Hurricane) / 88,515 Meals Over 15 Days

Operation BBQ Relief responded after Cat-5 Hurricane Dorian caused major damage in The Bahamas. We set up our field kitchen in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and worked with local small-craft pilots for initial meal flights and the crew of the Miss Montana for subsequent daily meal flights to Grand Bahama

The Miss Montana is a refurbished World War II era C-47 cargo plane that makes her home at the Museum of Mountain Flying in Missoula, Montana. Never used in combat, Miss Montana was purchased by Johnson Flying Service from the military in 1946 and has a storied 30+ year history of transporting cargo and smoke-jumpers through the back country of the Rockies. She was found in Arkansas in 2000 and returned home to Missoula where she sat in the Museum of Mountain Flying until 2018. She underwent a year-long extensive refurbishment for her flight to Normandy, France, in May 2019. Miss Montana’s OBR meal delivery flight to Grand Bahamas on Sept 16, 2019, marked her first official cargo flight in at least 20 years!

This deployment brought an additional dimension of logistical complexity for an OBR deployment as we were flying meals to their destination. During the first couple days of deployment, inclement weather and mechanical issues grounded planes unexpectedly, but that didn’t stop the prepared meals from being distributed locally. The Always Serving Project (our non-disaster arm) kicked into gear and delivered 9350 meals to First Responders and shelters in the Ft. Lauderdale area. But after that, we were able to ramp up disaster operations on the ground and in the air. Over the course of 15 days, our Disaster Response Team provided a total of 88,515 meals to the people on Grand Bahama.

Two major milestones occurred during this deployment: OBR’s 3 Million Meal mark and our first International deployment.

Tulsa, Oklahoma (Flood) / 7,950 Meals Over 7 Days

Oklahoma had seen a lot of rain from May into June.  But a June 6th storm dumped more than 4 inches of rain on Tulsa within three hours, causing widespread flooding along the already swollen Arkansas River.  Roughly 600 Tulsa area homes and businesses were swamped due to the flood, forcing evacuations.

On the evening of June 7, dedicated volunteers worked through the night to not only set up a cook site, but also prep and load food into the smokers so that first meals would be available for a lunchtime distribution next day.  From June 8 – 14, OBR volunteers served up the healing power of BBQ a total of 7950 times to the residents, first responders, and volunteers helping throughout the impacted communities!

We were fortunate to work with The Salvation Army, who used their canteen trucks to help distribute our hot meals to the heavily hit areas of the community and surrounding areas.

Linwood, Kansas (Tornado) / 2,000 Meals Over 2 Days

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a mile-wide EF-4 tornado ripped through Douglas and Leavenworth counties in Kansas, packing winds of up to 170 mph. Luckily there were only 18 reported injuries, but numerous homes were damaged or destroyed…Linwood, Kansas, being hardest hit.

Once the area was deemed safe, Operation BBQ Relief volunteers descended upon Linwood to connect, inspire, serve, and feed those in need. From June 1-2, we helped ensure that those impacted didn’t have to worry about where their next meal would come from. To that end, we provided the one hot meal that mattered 2000 times!

Dayton, Ohio (Tornado) / 15,172 Meals Over 6 Days

A severe storm system including tornadoes hit the Dayton, Ohio, area late evening on May 27, 2019, leaving approximately 68,000 households and businesses in the state were without power. The weather service issued 36 tornado warnings across the region that night!

In the aftermath, Operation BBQ Relief was asked to come do what we do best: connect, inspire, serve, and feed those in need. OBR cooked and delivered hot meals to impacted residents, first responders, linemen, and other organizations helping in the wake of the storms.

This deployment provided an opportunity for OBR to test the use of Dutch ovens as an additional cooking method. The Dutch ovens were a perfect complement to the smokers, allowing the smokers to be dedicated to proteins while the Dutch ovens were dedicated to vegetable sides and one-pot meals from our diversified menu. The additional cooking resources allowed us to provide 15,172 hot meals in just 6 days!

Franklin & Alto, Texas (Tornado) / 1,960 Meals Over 3 Days

On April 13, 2019, OBR was cooking and serving The One Hot Meal That Matters just a few short hours after a tornado hit the towns of Franklin and Alto, Texas. We received a call from the Franklin’s Emergency Manager that help was needed and our volunteers sprang to action. It was a heartfelt experience for many, as Franklin is where our own Chris Huggings grew up. Chris was in charge of logistics for OBR and his first-hand knowledge of the town proved invaluable.

Our volunteers not only loaded hot BBQ meals onto Salvation Army canteen trucks for distribution, but they also took meals out into the community themselves, searching for those without means to get to the canteens.

Freeport, Illinois (Flood) / 3,681 Meals Over 4 Days

Heavy rain and quick snow melt atop still-frozen ground forced runoff into rivers and creeks across the Midwest during the second week of March 2019. Historic flooding along the east bank of the Pecatonica River (cresting at 16.45′, the highest level since 1975) forced residents from their homes.

The Stephenson County Emergency Manager had heard of Operation BBQ Relief through his involvement with nearby BBQ competitions, so he knew exactly where to ask for help feeding those in need. Freeport’s municipal parking lot, adjacent to The Salvation Army of Freeport, IL, provided the perfect location for the OBR site set-up. Being a small-scale deployment, we got back to our early roots of using volunteers’ competition smokers and small pop-up tents. Despite the frigid overnight temps, our volunteers arrived at the crack of dawn every morning with a smile and a can-do attitude that carried throughout each day. Over 4 days, we prepared the one hot meal that matters 3681 times.

Many thanks to The Salvation Army of Freeport for their generosity in providing a hot breakfast to the OBR volunteers each morning, the use of their kitchen and refrigeration facilities, and for ensuring distribution of the one hot meal that mattered!

Fremont, Nebraska (Flood) / 15,830 Meals Over 18 Days

Heavy rains caused widespread flooding. In Nebraska, flood records have been shattered in 17 places.

Chico, California (Fire) / 5,225 Meals Over 6 Days

The Camp Fire in November 2018 was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date.

Tallahassee & Panama City, Florida (Hurricane) / 808,220 Meals Over 30 Days

Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous US in terms of pressure. Michael made landfall as a high-end Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane-force wind gusts, heavy rainfall, and higher than normal tides along the gulf coast caused extensive damage.