Stan Hays

BBQ pit masters are providing food and comfort during for Texans in some of the darkest days.

Rebecca Angel Baer
August 31, 2017

As Southerners, we know that there is no better way to bring comfort in trying times than by filling empty bellies with a hearty meal. That’s how the folks at Operation BBQ Relief feel as well. As soon as it was safe to do so, the team at OBR packed up their BBQ pits, truckloads of food and with full hearts, headed to Texas to care for people who’ve suffered the wrath of Hurricane Harvey.

Posted by Stan Hays on Sunday, August 27, 2017

 

They are currently set up in a downtown Houston parking lot providing meals to first responders and taking bulk orders for the churches and civic centers that are currently serving as shelters.

 

 

The OBR setup in Houston! We are here to serve the community. #hurricaneharvey #Houston #OBRCares #OBRisDeployed

Posted by Operation BBQ Relief on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

 

 

 

We're smoking meat and taking meal orders to feed those impacted or responding to Hurricane Harvey. If you have mouths...

Posted by Operation BBQ Relief on Thursday, August 31, 2017

 

Co-Founder and CEO, Stan Hays, told Southern Living, “We have police officers coming down who are very appreciative. They’ve all worked 24/7, many haven’t gone home longer than to take a shower and change clothes {since the storm hit} and haven’t had a hot meal in days.”

WATCH: Houston Strong: See Incredible Everyday Heroes Help Save Lives Through Hurricane Harvey

This group of BBQ enthusiasts proves that in disaster, there is always a place for people who wish to help. These folks are not career first responders. They aren’t out with the Coast Guard pulling people out of rushing water, but they know what their expertise is and how they can help. They can provide the comfort and compassion of a home-cooked, hot meal.

The idea sprouted from the aftermath of another tragic disaster. In May of 2011, one of the deadliest tornadoes to ever strike U.S. soil devastated the small town of Joplin, Missouri. The deadly twister took 116 lives and left the community in ruins. Stan Hays, lives a few hours away in Pleasant Hill, Missouri. By day he is an employee of Farmer’s Insurance and in his spare time, he competes in BBQ competitions. So the day after the tornado ravaged Joplin, Hays was getting ready to leave for work when his wife had an idea.

“You need to go, she told me. I said yes I know, I am late for work. And she said, no, you need to get the BBQ guys together and go to Joplin to feed people. Just figure it out,” Hays recalled.

Hays listened to his wife and as he left for work, he called his BBQ competition partners, Will Cleaver and Jeff Stith with this idea. The guys agreed and they took off to Joplin to show this heartbroken town a “little love from the BBQ community.” They planned to serve five thousand meals, only they hit that number in the first lunch. They ended up staying and serving the people of Joplin for 11 days. In that time, several of the others on the ground doing relief work said that Stan and his pit master buddies were doing things no one else was doing. That was the impetuous for Operation BBQ Relief. By February 2012, they were a registered 501c3. Houston is now the 41st community in 22 states they have served. OBR has provided more than one million meals. Check out a map of their impact here.

“What was missing in the disaster world is a stop gap. We’re here for that short burst to fill the gap between the time when disaster strikes and when those larger organizations and local organizations can get up and running,” Hays said.

Others have noticed the work of OBR and they are not alone in Houston. Several other people in the BBQ world have joined their efforts. Among others, Texas favorite, The Salt Lick, set up a tent alongside OBR. This visiting crew of BBQ masters is working around the clock to feed the hero first responders who have all risked their own lives to save Houstonians from this catastrophic and historic flooding. Hays and company also set up a system to take large bulk orders to distribute to as many of the shelters as they can. He estimates they will serve ten thousand meals a day.

Upon arriving in Houston, Hays said that it’s true what they say about Texans, they are resilient. He said that as they were setting up camp a group of locals approached him wishing to volunteer. “They said to me, hey we’re fine, we want to go ahead and help people in our community.”

You can help too. Hays told us that there are three ways to help. The biggest way he said, was to donate money through their website. Whatever you can give be it $5 or $500 will go directly into purchasing supplies. If you can’t donate but are in the area, you can sign up to be a volunteer. If you aren’t able to donate or volunteer Hays said, “Share our message with all of your friends. Tell them what we’re doing. The way things happen is through the masses. Somebody knows somebody that can help us get what we need.”

In the end, it’s all about helping people when they need it most. And in this case, with a side of BBQ sauce.