Volunteer of the Year 2016 – Bryan Roppolo

Bryan Roppolo, Operation BBQ Relief’s 2016 Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year. In reviewing the nominations for 2016, Bryan was nominated and the executive team removed his nominations, as we have a long standing policy that the Volunteer of the Year can not come off The Board or the Executive Team. We were extreamly excited about the impressive list of nominees infront of us. As things were coming down to the wire and the team had vigerous debate over the amazing reasons all the nominees could and should have won, Bryan’s name started popping up again. We lost sight of the fact that Bryan was not on The Executive team in 2016. It then became clear to us, Bryan was the most amazing volunteer for OBR in 2016. It was hard for The Executive Team to work this award around Bryan in his presence, but we did.

Bryan’s contributions to OBR in 2016 are long. He ran two deployments in 2016 and participated in many more. The Hammond, LA Deployment served more meals then we have ever served in a disaster by three fold. He helped to put together systems over the year to ensure we could replicate that successful deployment. Bryan also built team infrastructer. As people met and worked with Bryan they were compelled to further steep themselves in OBR and with Bryan. Bryan’s leadership and volunteerism are beyond approach, but most people will recognize his contagous positive can do spirit as his greatest strength. Bryan Roppolo is the 2016 Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year for Operation BBQ Relief. Congratulations and Thank Q for all you do!

Volunteer of the Year 2015 – Paul Peterson

Paul Peterson, Operation BBQ Relief’s 2015 Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year, loves cooking for large groups and has a passion for helping others. Like a lot of OBR volunteers, Paul was moved by watching the effects of a devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma that ravaged the area south of Oklahoma City and killed 24 people. A former competition cook, Peterson has committed to OBR by sitting on its Operational Team as the Director of Corporate Relations. He took a moment out of his busy schedule to grudgingly talk about himself when he said he’d much rather be talking about the efforts of others.

How did you get involved in OBR?

I first got involved with OBR during the 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornado. I wanted to help in a way that I knew would make a difference in the lives of those affected by the disaster. I’ve always liked putting on “big cooks” and I like helping people, so for me it was a natural fit. After registering online as a volunteer I was contacted and left the next morning to assist with the relief efforts.

Tell us about the work you have done with OBR?

During the Moore deployment I realized how unique and important OBR was to the disaster response process. OBR accomplishes more during a disaster with fewer resources than any other group. OBR is primarily funded by individuals and small business directly involved with the relief efforts and, because of this, I have focused on two main areas. One area is to introduce corporations to OBR and provide them with an avenue to assist OBR either through products we would need during a deployment or through monetary contributions, both of which are critical to our future success. The second is to make sure all volunteers have what they need during a deployment so they can take care of those in need. In short… If Team OBR needs it, I go find it.

What have you learned through your experience with OBR?

You can accomplish a lot when you channel your resource as a team.

Please expand upon how it’s impacted your life.

I continue to be in awe of the volunteers that are part of team OBR. They motivate me to do what I do because I see them giving so much of themselves. The camaraderie and service that is Operation BBQ Relief gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I am part of something that is 100% about helping those in need.

What do you want to say to anyone who might be thinking about volunteering?

OBR is a volunteer based organization that needs people from all walks of life and all skill sets. The common thread of all OBR volunteers is that we have a desire to help those in need during a disaster. If someone has a desire to be involved other than through a deployment we have that too. OBR has needs year round to maintain equipment, manage inventory, and prepare for fundraising activities. If you have a desire to be part of something pretty special and to help us grow, we can find a place for you.

What else should we know?

Operation BBQ Relief’s mission is to provide meals and compassion for those affected by disasters when the local community cannot meet their needs. Mother Nature is spontaneous and unpredictable; we never know where or when she will strike. For those reasons OBR must rely on volunteers from across the country and have resources at the ready to deploy within hours of disaster striking.   As the demand for our services grow, so does our need for volunteers and corporate sponsors. We are a team; we cannot do what we do without the support of our volunteers and our corporate sponsors that make OBR what it is.

Side note: Paul is the founder and owner of Paramount Investment Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he lives with his wife, Toni. At the conclusion of this interview, Paul was heading out to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday “again,” as he described it. He’s had to postpone the birthday celebration a couple of times because he’s dashed out the door to participate in relief efforts with OBR.

Volunteer of the Year 2014 – John Wheeler

John Wheeler, Operation BBQ Relief’s 2014 Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year

“It’s an honor to even be considered for volunteer of the year. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my family, friends and team members. Thanks to OBR for letting us be a part of your team.”

People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons, especially wanting to help others. But it’s also OK to want some benefits for yourself from volunteering. Some people are uncomfortable with the notion that a volunteer “benefits” from doing volunteer work. There is a long tradition of seeing volunteering as a form of charity, based on altruism and selflessness. The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others, but this does not exclude other motivations, as well. Instead of considering volunteering as something you do for people who are not as fortunate as yourself, begin to think of it as an exchange. Consider that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. So today you may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow you may be the recipient of someone else’s volunteer effort. Even now you might be on both sides of the service cycle: maybe you are a tutor for someone who can’t read, while last month the volunteer ambulance corps rushed you to the emergency room. Volunteering also includes “self-help.” So if you are active in your neighborhood crime watch, your home is protected while you protect your neighbors’ homes, too. Adding your effort to the work of others makes everyone’s lives better.

Volunteer of the Year 2013 – Bryan McLarty

Bryan McLarty, Operation BBQ Relief’s 2013 Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year.  In this interview, Bryan tells his story of how he and OBR got started.

How did you get involved in OBR?

Like several others, I was chatting on a BBQ forum the night the tornado hit in Joplin, MO. It was a devastating F5 tornado that destroyed most of the town. We began listening to the online scanners, and knew it was bad, very bad. Sitting in our homes safe and secure, we felt the need to help like most did, but didn’t know how. One of the guys online said he was going to go set up his BBQ pit the next morning and start cooking food for people, as we knew everything was destroyed. That one idea is what sparked me and so many others to help. Without hesitation I turned to my wife and said, “I’m going to Joplin to feed people.” I had no idea what I was doing at the moment, or what we would be doing, but like a moth to a flame I was being pulled like a magnet and I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted. I truly believe it was the hand of God telling me, this is your time. I was there for 9 of the 11 days, and from that point I knew what my calling was…serving others using the talents he gave me.

Tell us about the work you have done with OBR?

Since that deployment, I have led and been part of numerous deployments including:

  • Royse City & Forney, TX – Multiple tornado outbreak
  • West,TX – Massive explosion that leveled town
  • Moore, OK – Multiple tornado outbreak
  • Rowlett, TX – Multiple tornado outbreak

I have also organized many fundraisers for OBR. We have partnered with the Mercury One Foundation to feed thousands of people, and raise critical funds for Operation BBQ Relief in the process.

What have you learned through your experience with OBR?

Besides the awesome power of Mother Nature, I have learned that in less time than a single commercial on TV, someone’s life can be changed forever. We think we are powerful as humans, and then we’re brought back to reality in an instant.

I have also seen the true beauty of human compassion. In times of disaster so many people want to help others, and it’s truly humbling. Whether it’s a hot meal, blanket, or just listening to them for a few minutes while they decompress and share their experience. To know the feeling of helping someone who has just lost everything, sometimes including loved ones, is the best feeling a person can have – one that usually leaves you in tears.

What do you want to say to anyone who might be thinking about volunteering?

I say get involved. Please register as a volunteer, and be ready to serve. Here are a couple things that anyone wanting to volunteer should know.

  • First – be prepared to work. It’s the most rewarding beat down you will ever experience, and you will walk away a changed person.
  • Second – Understand that while everyone wants to be a part of helping in a deployment, sometimes you can simply have too many people. Not all volunteers will be called to action at every deployment, but know you were prepared to help nonetheless. There are many ways to volunteer to support OBR without being deployed.

What else should we know?

Everyone should know that Operation BBQ Relief is 100% volunteer, and as such, we are 100% funded by donations. We have never paid a single penny to anyone, and every dollar of your donation goes directly to helping someone affected by some sort of disaster or tragedy.

Bryan McLarty embodies everything that Operation BBQ Relief’s Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year is all about.  If you know someone who deserves this recognition, nominate them today.   The deadline is April 22nd.  NOMINATE HERE.