KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Operation BBQ Relief provided its first round of meals Sunday morning for southwestern Floridians affected by Hurricane Ian, meals accessible via a drive-thru service line.
“I might get tired of barbecue every once and a while, but I never get tired of handing someone a meal and seeing their face light up," said Operation BBQ Relief CEO Stan Hays.
At least 2,000 people waited in line for a serving of piping hot pulled pork and vegetables outside of Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Hays said they plan to increase production every day until they are serving 60,000 meals. In order to get to that level, Operation BBQ needs more volunteers on the ground.
“The biggest thing is we just need people with a heart to give and want to give that time,” he said. “It’s long, hot days. Sticky, sweaty but very rewarding when you get to be able to see somebody get those meals.”
The team of volunteers and employees doesn’t make the impossible happen on their own. With the help of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, they made pigs fly, in the form of pulled pork meals.
While walking their makeshift campus full of trailers and tents, Hays said the organization will serve its 10 millionth meal while in Florida, currently just shy a quarter of a million meals from the benchmark.
“Let’s face it: BBQ is comfort food. BBQ is celebration food,” Hays said. “You just don’t find that in other food. The healing power you get from that quintessential comfort food is meaningful for so many.”
Anyone who would like to donate or volunteer can do so on the Operation BBQ website.