KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two things are known to bring people together in Kansas City: the Chiefs and barbecue.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Veterans Community Project is making sure those gatherings still happen.
“Like a lot of the people around here, when I got out 20 years ago, I hit bottom myself,” said Matthew Brooks, a veteran and the owner and pitmaster of Charlie’s Pride BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas. “Sadly, with veterans they kind of go one of two ways when they get out. They either go up or they go down — and there’s so many of us who go down that don’t get back up.“
Proving you can in fact get back up, Brooks visited VCP on Super Bowl Sunday to pay it forward.
“I can show these men and women here that there is opportunity, there is hope, “Brooks said. "We just have to find our mission again.“
“It really goes back to what we put our stamp on, which is vets helping vets,” added Wes Williams, director of veteran services at VCP.
On Sunday, Brooks’ mission was to donate 18 to 20 slabs of ribs, made with love beginning at 3 a.m. Then, he personally delivered the barbecue to the doors of veterans at VCP who are in overflow housing at a hotel down the road.
“It’s nice to just lay eyes on them and say 'hey! We see you and we’re here for you and today.' We get to do that on Super Bowl Sunday," he said.
The visit sends a message to veterans, Williams said.
“To make sure that we are able to make them feel like they are remembered and special and even the smallest ways by bringing some ribs and some sides to them, I think we get to do that,” Williams said.
And even though Brooks is the one paying it forward, what it’s giving him in return is an indescribable feeling.
“I can’t describe it even now as I sit here and think about it. I start to tear up a little bit knowing where I’ve been and the road I walked," Brooks said. "It can get better, it will get better. You just have to put in that want; you to have to put in that work."