Many things can be said about volunteering, we are blessed to have the best volunteers in the world – huge hearts, strong willed and determined.  They are family!

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” — Muhammad Ali

“Only a life lived for others is worth living.” — Albert Einstein

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare

2020 Volunteer Awards

The Heart Award

The Heart Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated an extraordinary level of giving spirit.

This year’s recipient is Chris Creech and his family. Chris Creech and his family have made a lasting impact on Operation BBQ Relief. Their dedication, spirit, and enthusiasm are an inspiration. They never hesitate to do anything on deployment, often performing many different tasks while sacrificing break or personal time to get out the one meal that matters. Chris has been involved with Operation BBQ Relief for many years. He is always a shining star in whatever he does, and he serves as a role model for his family who closely follow in his footsteps.

The Motivational Award

The Motivational Award is presented to an individual who has made a remarkable impact on morale at a deployment or event.

This year’s recipient is Nelson Creech. Nelson is on the forklift from “before can to after can’t.”  When you get up in the morning, he is already moving material around. After we have stopped for the night and taken a shower, we sit down to relax and hear a noise. It is Nelson on the forklift moving things around.  He just keeps on going. His constant drive is seen by all and motivates others to keep going.

The Road Warrior Award

The Road Warrior Award is presented to an individual who has not let travel, distance, and/or time hinder their participation in deployments or events.

This year’s recipient is Mike Moore. In 2020 Mike tirelessly shuttled vehicles and equipment to Cedar Rapids, Lake Charles, Beaumont and Orange Beach among others. Always willing to be on the road for Operation BBQ Relief, he always gets equipment where it needs to be and spends long hours doing so.

The Quecomer Award

The Quecomer Award is presented to an individual who entered into the disaster relief scene as a brand-new volunteer with Operation BBQ Relief for the first time and made quite the impression on those around them right from the start.

This year’s recipient is Donnie Paul. Donnie’s first year at Operation BBQ Relief began in Nashville in 2020. He has been the go-to guy for this year. He’s become a member of the FAST team – first ones in and last ones out for deployments to set up and break down our deployment site. Operation BBQ Relief is incredibly grateful for Donnie’s dedication to our mission.

The Innovation Award

The Innovation Award is presented to an individual who has made life a little easier for volunteers by introducing an idea or invention which has been put into service at deployments, events, and/or behind the scenes.

This year’s recipient is Mike “Jet Blue” Schweerian. Mike is a person who does whatever it takes on deployments from working pits and tilt skillets, hauling trash, putting down tar paper and even the dreaded wash pits; all without complaint.  While working those areas he is always looking to make things better for all volunteers. Ever cleaned the pits and had the drainpipe get clogged?  He manufactured a rod that cleans the pipe, not only the long part but the short one too. He has solved so many problems and constantly strives to make Operation BBQ Relief better.

The Behind the Heart Award

The Behind the Heart award is presented to an individual who works tirelessly, and often unseen, behind the scenes at Operation BBQ Relief to make the organization successful.

This year’s recipient is Abby James. Abby works on the volunteer management team where she handles the volunteer side of non-disaster events including creating events and verifying that deployment requirements are complete.  She was integral in deploying volunteers throughout 2020 and also served on the Virtual Volunteer team for every 2020 deployment. Most importantly – during the Lake Charles, Louisiana deployment, Abby continued to perform all of her volunteer duties even after being mandatorily evacuated from her Northern California home due to wildfires encroaching.

The Grassroots Award

The Grassroots Award is presented to an individual who has put their BBQ skills to work outside of Operation BBQ Relief deployments and events to serve their own communities in an exceptional manner.

This year’s recipient is David Keith. This award is all about giving completely outside of Operation BBQ Relief, and David has done that. David brings a lot of experience to the table from a professional cooking and catering perspective, and he has years of experience with Operation BBQ Relief running various non-disaster events. He is very active in his community and has used his vast experience to run a variety of local events to help those in need and give back to his community.

The Leadership Award

The Leadership Award is presented to an individual who displays the utmost in leadership characteristics.

This year’s recipient is Mike Richter. Mike is a dedicated leader across the board. He has served as a deployment site lead numerous times in 2020. Some of those times were back-to-back, and once while his own home was actually under threat of severe weather. He’s been involved in numerous non-deployment events as well as behind the scenes in various Operation Restaurant Relief engagements. Mike has done a superb job in the role of site lead and as a mentor to others.

The Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year Award

The Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year Award is presented to an individual who exemplifies volunteerism and is recognized for their outstanding contributions to Operation BBQ Relief. Rod Cramer was one of the nicest guys in competition BBQ. He was always so positive and everyone’s biggest cheerleader. Rod was one of the first volunteers to arrive in Joplin nearly 10 years ago, and through Rod, we got our first corporate gift after becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity.

Rod stayed engaged up to the very end when he lost his battle to leukemia. This award was named after Rod because of the heart, work ethic, friendship, and respect he embodied. These are key traits of our volunteer of the year!

This year’s recipient actually earned the award largely by not being in the spotlight.

Rob Lee is one of the most humble volunteers to grace Operation BBQ Relief.  So many of his efforts take place behind the scenes.  You’ll find him on deployments moving inventory around, working on food prep, and countless other activities, but for all the efforts people see, there is unseen work ten-fold. He’s racked up thousands of miles driving OBR equipment.  Throughout the height of Covid-19, he was instrumental in transporting food to Operation Restaurant Relief restaurants so they could produce meals to feed in communities hit hardest during the shutdowns. In a year where Operation BBQ Relief produced over five million meals, the truck driver is the real unsung hero.

2019 Volunteer Awards

Congratulations to the following volunteers who were this year’s recipients!

The Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year – Alan Nichols
The OBR Heart Award – Chris Wilson Sr. And Family
The Motivational Award – Mike Richter
The Road Warrior Award – Robert Lee
The Quecomer Award – Harry & Sharon Leonard
The Innovation Award – Scott Guy
The Behind the Heart Award – Cheryl Baylie
The Grass Roots Award – Donnie Paul
The Leadership Award – Brian Polak

2018 Volunteer Awards

A huge congratulations goes to the following volunteers who were this year’s recipients.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who attended the first annual volunteer banquet. We truly hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! And a huge thank you to all of you who worked behind the scenes to make everything happen. It was a weekend to remember!

The Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year Award – Laurie Polak
The Leadership Award – Joey Rusek
The Heart Award – David Keith
The Que’ Comer Award – Cheryl McDonald
The Road Warrior Award – Michael Moore
The Innovation Award – Paul Carnell
The Motivation Award – Leigh Carnell

Volunteer of the Year Past Recipients

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…
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…
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…
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…

All Past Awards


Volunteer of the Year – Joey Rusek
Leadership Award – Dewayne Daniels


Volunteer of the Year – Bryan Ropollo


Volunteer of the Year – Paul Peterson


Volunteer of the Year – John Wheeler


Volunteer of the Year – Bryan McLarty


Volunteer of the Year – Robert Taylor

Founders Coin Recipients

The “Founders Coin” was created to recognize someone who has gone far and above what others have done for OBR.  This coin is given by the Founders (Stan Hays and Will Cleaver) and is a unanimous decision.  These can be given out anytime and anywhere for people who embody the core of what OBR is in the daily actions.

Scott Guy is one of the “Memphis Crew” for OBR. For those who do not know, Scott is a Master Airplane Mechanic for a large shipping company out of Memphis. It is our opinion that Scott is an Airplane Mechanic because Pilots need Heroes too!…
Nick Woolfolk is one hard working man. He has to be to keep up with his mentor and past Volunteer of the Year John Wheeler. He certainly goes down as the pitmaster of the year for Operation BBQ Relief in 2016. He manned the pits and was responsible…
Dewayne Daniel is true Southern Gentleman with a heart as big as the moon. He has been to multiple deployments and tirelessly works while keeping spirits high. He often can be seen rolling trucks, trailers, and equipment across the country…
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…

Caught Doing Good Stories

The “Caught Doing Good” coin is given to an individual, whether or not it is OBR related, when that individual is caught doing something good for someone else.  You are given 2 coins – one to keep, and one to give out.  When you catch someone exemplifying “Caught Doing Good,” you give them one coin and get a picture of them and let them know their act is appreciated.  You then send us an email and we will post your story and picture and send you another coin.

Keep it up!!