From the Heart – January 2021

Jan 21, 2021 | Newsletters

From the Heart

January 2021

Message from the Co-Founders

Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Ten years ago, we found ourselves asking that same question. While there were many volunteer opportunities with local nonprofits, we struggled with finding one that integrated our passion for BBQ with our passion for service.

After a tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri in 2011, we saw families that were hungry, without shelter, and struggling to rebuild. Our goal was simply this: to share the healing power of BBQ by providing hot meals to families and first responders. We never envisioned that the 120,000 meals served in Joplin would multiply to almost 9 million meals served since.

We extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteers that have answered the call to join our efforts in providing the one hot meal that matters during the past 10 years. Your time, dedication, and generous hearts are a major driving force in our mission. In 2020 alone, 542 volunteers from 37 different states devoted 21,307 hours of service to Operation BBQ Relief.

If you have never signed up to volunteer, we invite you to join the Operation BBQ Relief family and sign up today. You can sign up by downloading the Operation BBQ Relief app in your app store or visiting We hope that your experience may be as enriching as ours and many of our volunteers, like Donnie Paul who we highlight in this month’s newsletter.

Stan Hays, CEO
Will Cleaver, CPO and Head of Finance

Who knew barbecue would have this kind of impact?

By Donnie Paul
Operation BBQ Relief Volunteer

After celebrating the holiday seasons and reflecting on the past year, I find myself thinking about my amazing first year with Operation BBQ Relief. From my first experience with Operation BBQ Relief at the BBQ Basics in September 2019 to the multiple deployments I volunteered at throughout 2020, including two trips to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; a trip to California; one trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa; two trips to Lake Charles, Louisiana; and a trip to Orange Beach, Alabama, I found myself feeling proud of and excited by all that has been accomplished by this amazing organization.

While Operation BBQ Relief has made a huge impact on communities all across the country, I find myself thinking of the life-changing impact it has had on me personally. Operation BBQ Relief has gifted me a new ability that I never knew I would enjoy this much. It has given me a new family: a group of individuals that have selfless hearts and willingness to share knowledge, hope, and compassion with no thought to themselves.

Not only has Operation BBQ Relief fed millions this past year but they also have fed my soul. When I left the Department of Homeland Security and the fire service full-time, I never thought I would find the camaraderie that I loved so much again, yet Operation BBQ Relief has given me that and so much more.

Thank you for your mentorship, your counsel, your knowledge, your friendship, and your willingness to share with me, which have allowed me the opportunities that I have had. Although my first year with Operation BBQ Relief was extremely busy, my heart has never been fuller than it is right now.

I look forward to the continued opportunity to learn from each of you and proudly await what 2021 has in store. My beautiful mother and I were able to start a new holiday tradition by cooking in the kitchen together on Thanksgiving Day, a year after her stroke. This would have never been possible without Operation BBQ Relief. I am forever thankful and hold you all in a very special place in my heart.

Who knew barbecue would have this kind of impact?

2020 Awards and Recognition Call for Nominations

Do you know Operation BBQ Relief volunteers who went way above and beyond the call of duty in 2020? Now is your chance to recognize them with nominations for their outstanding efforts!

Volunteers are a cornerstone of Operation BBQ Relief. 2020 was a challenging year in many ways, and our volunteers worked hard to make our deployments and events successful. We need your help identifying individuals for our nine award categories. It could have been motivational or innovative. It could have been leadership or a grassroots effort. Maybe it was behind the scenes or a brand new volunteer who caught everyone’s attention. Or, maybe it was such a stellar contribution that an individual could be our 2020 Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year! Make your voice heard by telling us who you feel is most deserving and why. A full description of each award is in the nomination survey.

Click here to complete nomination survey.

Don’t delay, the nomination window ends at 11:59 PM Central on Sunday, January 31, 2021. Award recipients will be announced in late February.

Meals for Nashville

Through the Operation Restaurant Relief program, we teamed up with Peg Leg Porker to provide BBQ meals to first responders and volunteers cleaning up the blast zone in Nashville following the explosion in downtown on December 25, 2020.

Operation BBQ Relief Recipes

If you’re looking for delicious appetizer recipes, try Cindy’s Mexican Street Corn Bake and the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip from the Operation BBQ cookbook. These recipes would be perfect for the Super Bowl!

OBR Prime Rib with Mike Golic and Stan Hays

This summer, we began filming Grilling with Operation BBQ Relief segments with former and current NFL players. We are excited to launch the first Grilling with Operation BBQ Relief video with ESPN Mike Golic and Stan Hays.

If you’re looking for a recipe to impress your family at a special holiday dinner, watch this video to learn how to make a delicious Certified Angus Beef Prime Rib with OBR horseradish sauce.

View Recipes

View Video

Celebrity BBQ Academy & Golf Classic

Save the date! Operation BBQ Relief will be hosting our first Celebrity BBQ Academy & Golf Classic fundraiser on Monday, May 24, 2021 in Kansas City. Join us as we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Operation BBQ Relief!

Click here for Details

Operation BBQ Relief YouTube Channel

Operation BBQ Relief needs your help as we grow our YouTube channel. Please visit our YouTube channel and click Subscribe! The channel has numerous videos that will highlight volunteers, deployments, programs, and recipes!

Thank you for your support!

Corporate Supporters



Join the #iamOBR movement with a tax deductible monthly contribution where you can select donation options to help support Operation BBQ Relief.


Operation BBQ Relief relies solely on volunteers like you. Whether you are a competition BBQ team, caterer, restaurateur or simply an individual or group wanting to help when disaster strikes, we want you to be a part of this rewarding experience in helping people.