From the Heart – End of Year 2019

Dec 19, 2019 | Newsletters

From the Heart

End of Year 2019

Meals served since 2011



When folks think about Operation BBQ Relief, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a group of volunteers coming together in a specific location to feed those in need. But Operation BBQ Relief’s need for volunteers comes in many forms and at different times…from disaster relief, to serving those in need during non-disaster times, to daily/weekly efforts that many don’t even know about or think about.

Disaster-based efforts are how we got started and they’re still a large part of our efforts. Disaster-based events require not only ‘boots on the ground’ volunteers, but also warehouse volunteers to prep and maintain inventory and prep and load/unload the trucks, and ‘virtual volunteers’ who can perform computer-based tasks remotely.

Non-disaster-based efforts stem primarily from our Always Serving Project and from fundraising events. This is an important, growing segment of Operation BBQ Relief’s efforts. Same as disaster-based efforts, a team of volunteers both on the ground and behind the scenes is needed to perform the broad spectrum of tasks. These are usually 1-2 day events, meaning a shorter, more manageable, time commitment as compared to a disaster-based event.

Registered volunteers are automatically notified of volunteer opportunities both disaster-based and non-disaster events via the Operation BBQ Relief Volunteers app on their smart device. If you don’t have this app, please download it from your device’s app store (links available here: ).

“Behind the scenes” tasks are another fast-growing segment of our volunteer opportunity. Operation BBQ Relief’s growth has resulted in the need for more volunteers in the roles of assistants, graphics designers, area coordinators, etc. We will be posting skilled volunteer position openings soon. Watch our website for listings.

We’d like to wrap up this message with information regarding our 2nd Annual Operation BBQ Relief Banquet. The banquet will be held at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, FL, on Saturday, February 22, 2020. Planning is underway to provide attendees with an engaging, informative, fun weekend. Watch your email for a ‘save the date’ with more details and volunteer award nomination instructions.

As always, if you have any questions please send them to If you want to find out how you can get more involved with one or more of our teams, please contact

Thank you for your efforts, past, present, and future!!

Will Cleaver and Stan Hays
Co-Founders of Operation BBQ Relief

Operation BBQ Relief Deployments: The 2019 Year in Review

Operation BBQ Relief stayed busy with 10 disaster-related deployments throughout 2019 and hit new milestones as well!

Heavier than normal rains pummeled the Plains and Midwest during the late winter months of February and March. The catastrophic flooding resulted in deployments to IL and NE.

Spring tornadoes ripped through the center of the US from April through June. Power outages and damage to homes resulted in deployments to OH, KS, and OK.

Hurricane season got off to a slower than normal start, but Hurricane Dorian announced her presence along most of the Atlantic coastline during early September. Making its first landfall as a Cat 5 hurricane on September 1st, Dorian stalled over The Bahamas for more than 24 hours before making a slow trajectory paralleling the US coastline. Ultimately, hurricane devastation resulted in the largest feeding need being in The Bahamas. This deployment marked two major milestones for us: Operation BBQ Relief’s first International deployment (cooking in Florida and flying the hot meals to Grand Bahama Island) and our 3 millionth meal served!

Autumn’s cold fronts and strong jet stream winds mixed with warm, moist air, producing tornadoes in the southern half of the US, where again, power outages and damage to homes resulted in deployments to TX and TN.

We rounded out the year in CA, where seasonal winds fanned the flames of wildfires across vegetation dried out due to delayed Fall rains. The mandatory evacuations resulted in deployment to CA.

The Always Serving Project

The Breaking Bread Tour launched the Always Serving Project in April. The BBT was a run, bike, and hand cycle from Los Angeles to Tampa by way of Phoenix, El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Hammond, and Panama City. Over the course of 2,900 miles, Operation BBQ Relief volunteers served over 80,000 meals to people in these communities. Also, more than 50 different media outlets shared the Operation BBQ Relief message. At the end of the BBT, we had the opportunity to serve the Wounded Warrior Athletes and their families during the DOD Warrior Games.

Following the BBT, BBQ Basic kicked off in August. This year long series is designed to teach veterans, first responders, and military the basics of BBQ. We held events at the United States Coast Guard in New York City, Travis Mills Foundation in Maine, Tri-Cities 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in Kingsport, TN, and Fort Bragg, NC). 116 participants completed the two-day course and we served more than 7,800 meals.

The Days of Giving programs in the November and December holiday seasons continued the Operation BBQ Relief tradition of impacting communities.

The Wild Turkey With Thanks Tour

During the month of November, Operation BBQ Relief partnered with Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey on the With Thanks Tour. We used our volunteer base and our cooking skills to provide Thanksgiving meals for first responders across the country.

Starting in Los Angeles, we fed 1600 firefighters as well as those in need on Skid Row. We were honored to have Celebrity Chef Eric Greenspan with the OBR team. The firefighters were excited to have meals delivered to their firehouses by team Operation BBQ Relief, team Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey.

From there we went to Dallas where we prepared 1000 meals for first responders and the fight on hunger.

Down in the New Orleans bayou, we served hot meals to the rescue workers who were working on the hotel collapse as well as first responders and a local homeless shelter. We teamed up with Central City Barbecue in that event.

From there we closed out our tour in Chicago. We partnered with Jennifer Maddox, a 2017 CNN hero, and our friend Corey Rice of Food Network fame helped us out as well. All in all Wild Turkey and the With Thanks Tour supported our mission to connect, inspire, serve, educate, and feed those in need. It’s with great partners that we are able to exercise our mission and Wild Turkey is surely a great partner.

Operation BBQ Relief Events in 2019

Can you believe that we participated in at least 42 events in 2019? This includes bigger events like the Breaking Bread Tour, but we also had the privilege of cooking and serving thousands of meals throughout the country, not including our deployments. We did everything from a Farmers Breakfast at a YMCA to the Houston Rodeo Cookoff. We served lunch at conferences, music fests, and training sessions. We furthered our training with other emergency relief organizations and helped sponsor companies celebrate their milestones. And we cooked for the annual Army Navy football game just last week. We don’t have the space to list everything we did in 2019, but our leadership and volunteers were on the go throughout the whole year. Follow us on Facebook to see pictures and hear some of the stories. We are all so proud to be able to help spread the healing power of BBQ and plan to spread it even further in 2020.

2nd Annual Operation BBQ Relief Banquet

The Second Annual Operation BBQ Relief Banquet will be held on February 22, 2020, at Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando. Planning is well underway to ensure your experience is memorable! Educational seminars, information sharing sessions, and time to mix and mingle with your OBR family, are all included. And of course, there’s the banquet and awards ceremony.

Start thinking about who you will nominate for our 2019-based awards, such as:

  • OBR Heart – for demonstrating an outstanding giving spirit to family and community.
  • Motivation – for remarkable impact on morale at an OBR deployment or event.
  • Road Warrior – for clocking the most driving miles coming to deployments and events.
  • Quecomer – for the volunteer new to OBR in 2019 who eagerly participated in multiple events.
  • Innovation – for introducing an idea or invention that improves process or saves time/effort.
  • Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year – for outstanding volunteerism and leadership throughout the year, working at deployments and events, and behind the scenes to grow and improve OBR.

Watch your email in December for more information regarding the banquet weekend agenda and locale. Information regarding Volunteer award categories and nominations will be emailed separately in January. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!

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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.