August 7, 2023 is National Purple Heart Day, and we want to share the extraordinary story of one of our longtime volunteers – Alan Nichols.
Alan valiantly served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and received the Bronze Star, Army Commendation for Heroism, Combat Infantry Badge, 5 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart. After he returned home, he eventually became a champion pitmaster and competition barbecue judge. His passion for giving back to others didn’t end with his military service, however. At a barbecue contest in 2017, he found out that Operation BBQ Relief was deploying to Estero, Fla. in response to Hurricane Irma. He once again answered the call to serve and deployed to provide meals and comfort to those who had lost so much.
“I was hooked after Estero and started deployment after deployment, meeting the best of the best people in the USA. I believe in OBR’s mission and motivate others to join the cause,” Alan said.
He estimates he has deployed between 12 and 16 times in the years since, serving countless thousands of meals to communities in need. He has also spread the word about Operation BBQ Relief at dozens of barbecue competitions, helping others register to volunteer. He even earned Operation BBQ Relief’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2019.
“I love seeing the smiles and tears of joy recipients share when they receive ‘That One Meal That Matters’. Helping is a feel good thing. It is not possible to explain that feeling. The experience of being with volunteers that are there because they want to be, not because they have to be there also cannot be expressed in writing. The OBR family is a very close, interesting, giving, and caring group of friends wanting to make a difference,” Alan said.
He also offered advice to people who may consider volunteering with Operation BBQ relief.
“OBR Volunteers comprise people of all walks of life, including homemakers, lawyers, policemen, bartenders, IT professionals, chefs, veterans, and retirees – to mention a few,” Alan said. “First thing new volunteers should know is OBR has people that will direct them. Volunteers do not need cooking skills. New volunteers should be prepared to be accepted with love, friendship, and hard fulfilling work to make someone that is having a bad day better.”
Today we thank Alan and all veterans for their service to others. Your examples of heroism and selflessness are an inspiration to us all.
To register to volunteer with Operation BBQ Relief, download the app on your phone or visit https://operationbbqrelief.org/volunteer-obr/.
Alan Nichols, center, The Rod Cramer Volunteer of the Year
2019 Operation BBQ Relief Volunteer Awards