What is your why? The purpose that drives you each day? What I do as a sports broadcaster happens to be unique, and in my opinion, the greatest job ever. Anyone who loves sports would probably agree. While getting paid to talk about baseball every day is incredible, there’s an understanding that it’s also making an impact on someone. Whether they’re lying in a hospital bed or overseas on deployment, I’m able to deliver a sense of normalcy that they want and need.
When keynoting, I often challenge my corporate audiences by asking them, “What is your why?” Knowing why you do something each day is what motivates you to keep going. Oftentimes it’s just as important as the work itself. It’s an integral part of everyone’s story, which is why I so often find myself discussing purpose with my guests on my podcast Rounding the Bases. I recently had a pair of guests on the show who – like me – have been fortunate to build a career from their passion, and be driven by an incredible purpose as well.
They are two pit masters who answered an unexpected call to serve in the aftermath of disaster. In May 2011, an F5 tornado wrecked havoc on Joplin, Missouri. As news outlets across the country broadcasted footage of the devastation, they knew they couldn’t sit idly by. So they mobilized a caravan of meat smokers and set out to deliver the healing power of bbq. For those who have nothing, a hot meal is everything. And since then, my guests and their team have served more than 10 million of them.
Stan Hays and Will Cleaver are the co-founders of Operation BBQ Relief. They’ve grown it from a grassroots effort into a national network for disaster relief. Even more recently, its reach has extended to include first responders, healthcare workers and military personnel. With great food, education and even some R&R, OBR’s mission is to care for those who need it most.
SINGLE: A Shared Passion
There’s no playbook for finding your purpose. A shared passion took Will and Stan from competitors to co-founders, but not before different paths first led them to the world of bbq.
Will admits his first foray into it was purely to escape the grind of his work as an IT professional. The focus required on the competitive circuit provided a welcome respite, and eventually, the discovery of his true calling. “I had no long term goal,” he told me, “and I had no idea how much those decisions would lead me to where I am today.”
If Will’s journey was a smolder, Stan’s was a full blown blaze. “Live fire cooking drew me in,” he shared. And once he was there, he realized it gave the same competitive thrill he used to get from years of playing sports. “It was something to get that rush back.”
His first competition hooked him on bbq, but the Joplin relief effort showed him why. The passion he developed was immediate and nearly palpable. So much so that his boss at the time asked when he was going to pursue it for a living. Just a few years later, he was finally able to make a career doing what truly drives him. “I haven’t had a Monday in four years,” he said, the hallmark of having found your purpose.
DOUBLE: What Is Your Why?
Hours after the tornado hit Joplin, Stan made a Facebook post hoping to rally some fellow pit masters. After all, this was a group of cooks and caterers whose skills uniquely positioned them to get meals out with efficiency. Will had the interest and equipment, so joined the effort and accompanied Stan to the devastated city.
The team had expected to stay 3 to 5 days and serve about 3,000 meals. Nearly two weeks later, they were still on site and had served 110,000 of them. “I had always wanted to do something for others but never quite found the right fit,” he shared with me. After a lifetime of searching, he found the missing piece in the midst of catastrophe. “Then this came about,” he said, and continued, “It leaves an emotional stamp on you … and it just makes you want to do more for them.”
TRIPLE: Always Serving
At the time of our interview, Operation BBQ Relief had served more than 9.6 million meals since 2011. And by the time this blog was written a few weeks later, that figure had grown to 10.25 million.
The numbers are so staggering that even Will sometimes has a hard time grasping their magnitude. “I still can’t get my head around those numbers,” he said about all of the meals they have provided. What’s more impressive still is the number of those that were served by their tireless volunteers, many of whom had never been around bbq prior to joining OBR. “Watching them do that for somebody else with nothing wanted in return, is amazing,” Will told me.
Even though OBR is always planning for its next disaster, one they could not have foreseen was the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It alone was responsible for nearly 4 million meals in 2020. “It’s credit to the team that we have, our ability to morph and really look at situations,” Stan shared. And it also positioned them to become a mass feeder across the entire country as it collectively struggled with the implications.
When restaurants and catering companies were forced to shutter their doors, Operation BBQ Relief stepped in to provide the meals that those establishments suddenly could not. “We gave them a lifeline to help pay those bills that they were going to have to pay, whether they were open or not,” he said. And it was all thanks to the purposeful leadership and agile teamwork afforded by their national network.
HOME RUN: A Perfect Storm
I’m a firm believer that when the going gets tough, the best will still find a way to show up and make it work. And it’s exactly how Stan, Will and the Operation BBQ Relief team responded in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey threatened to become their most challenging disaster to date.
The catastrophic storm was forecasted to be the worst to ever make landfall in Texas. Aside from providing relief to the populous, industry-heavy city of Houston, they had the added challenge of doing it with an audience. The team was working with CNN Heroes to showcase their tremendous aftermath efforts. At the same time, FOX News’ Martha McCallum was on-location, filming from the parking lot as unprecedented amounts of help flooded in.
“I don’t think there was a more perfect storm, no pun intended,” Stan told me. With 150 people in a single downtown parking lot, they still managed to pull off the biggest single-day feed in OBR history. The grand total came to 56,000 meals, a record still held to this day. “It was probably the most organized chaos that you could have had,” he shared. “We showed the world that we’re not just a bunch of cooks. We’re some pretty darn good cooks.” That day there was no asking what is your why. They just knew it, and they put it into action.
Learn More About What Is Your Why from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:00
Welcome into Rounding the Bases the podcast about culture and leadership with a baseball twist presented by Community America Credit Union: Believe in Unbelievable. My name is Joel Goldberg. I got a really impactful podcast today. A really interesting one and a lot of, I think one that’ll bring us a lot of inspiration maybe make us a little bit hungry too, we shall see. A quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City. They are a company that I am in partnership with, extremely focused on culture, but also on helping people. Which by the way, is a great theme to today’s show as well. If you’re looking for a job, if you’re looking to hire, check them out incredible resource. Even if you don’t do business with them that they’re always looking just to help people so I hope you’ll check them out whether it’s locally or around the country chiefofstaffkc.com. Chief of Staff Kansas City Making Connections That Matter. As for today’s episode, as we head into Labor Day weekend, I’m joined by two pitmasters, who answered an unexpected call to serve in the aftermath of catastrophe. In May 2011, boy seems like almost yesterday and now 11 plus years ago, an F5 Tornado wreaked havoc on Joplin, Missouri. As news outlets across the country broadcasted footage of the devastation. These two gentlemen knew that they couldn’t just sit idly by. So they mobilized a caravan of meat smokers and set out to deliver the healing power of barbecue. Let me say that again, the healing power of barbecue. For those who have nothing a hot meal is everything. And since then, my guests and their team have served nearly 10 million of them. Stan Hayes and Will Cleaver are the co-founders of Operation Barbecue Relief, which they’ve grown from a grassroots effort into a national network for disaster relief. Even more recently, it’s reached its reach has extended to also include first responders, healthcare workers and military personnel. Bottom line there, their work never ends. With great food, education and even some R&R. OBR’s mission is to care for those who need it most. It’s a story that may bring a tear to your eye, but it’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Not to make you not not to mention to make you perhaps a little bit hungry as well. This is a truly an incredible story. And we’re joined right now by Will Cleaver and Stan Hayes and gentlemen, you guys have been at it for a really long time. And the work never ends. I know that one. So before we get into everything that you’re doing, Stan Hayes Will Clever. Welcome to the podcast. We’ll I know you guys could never have envisioned this would be where you’re at now, when you started this in 2011. What was the goal at that point?
Will Cleaver 3:08
Yeah, I think in 2011, the goal really came about through me seeing Stan’s Facebook post of just trying to go help the community. Really thinking that what we had done as competition barbecue cooks and caterers at times, was a skill set we knew could help get meals out to people, and really thought we would go to Joplin for three to five days and maybe serve 3,000 meals, and really had no idea that it would be 12 days in 110,000 meals, not to mention the number of volunteers and other barbecue teams that showed up to help get those meals out.
Joel Goldberg 3:44
So Stan, I guess at that point, you thought, Okay, we know how to do this meaning, great barbecue. And I think most pitmasters love to share their work with consumers. That one’s obvious and a love of barbecue and food. And I’m sure there’s nothing like as a pitmaster having everybody say, Wow, that is amazing, you know, mouthwatering food, they love it. Now, suddenly, you have a chance to make an impact. Again, I think as Will was saying you could never have known the magnitude. But you had something in mind at that point of knowing that you could help in the moment, right.
Stan Hays 4:19
Yeah, I mean, as we’ll set it was really about using our passion for grilling and barbecue to go out there and just help the community. You know who better than a bunch of pitmasters that goes set up in a parking lot to compete against one another, to come together and really help that community with a hot, you know, pulled pork sandwich.
Joel Goldberg 4:41
Yeah, but Who could have known that it would turn into what it has all these years later? At what point Stan, did the thought process turn to what else can we do?
Stan Hays 4:53
I think I think it was about day three that we were on the ground in Joplin. And it was really, that sort of I won’t, it was an aha moment. But it was a group of us sitting around at the end of the day, talking about how there was a big need, and that need was not being met after a big disaster like this. And it’s, it’s how long it takes the bigger organizations to mobilize and get their feet underneath them to really start impacting a community, while a community’s reeling from the loss, you know, because a lot of times you look for those churches and civic groups in that community to come together to do what they’re doing. And in this instance, they were, they were part of, you know, trying to get themselves taken care of, as well. And so you needed this outside group to come in, somebody that can mobilize quickly with minimal needs to be able to come in and make a difference. You know, and, and I think that, I don’t know, if you lost me there. I don’t know if that’s what Will, and I learned, really, during that time or not, but it was that it was much more than a pulled pork sandwich that we were giving. It was, it was sort of that that the the thought that hey, there are people that care about the community that they know, that you haven’t been forgotten about, and that there was love for them, you know, in a pulled pork sandwich, that’s what we found.
Joel Goldberg 6:23
I guess that’s the emotional side of it, Will, right? You know, you’re gonna go and do some good there, that’s obvious, you know, you have the ability to do that. But I would think I’m sure you’re as much as possible used to it now. I’m assuming it never gets old, the emotional reaction that the the way that it can make someone’s moment in the worst of times, and I’m sure that never gets old for you. And it’s probably the greatest of reminders. But I also would think that the first set of reactions that you got like that really, I’m imagining here must have just blown you away, as you saw the response, I mean, I’m guessing that you can’t fully understand that until you’re in that moment.
Will Cleaver 7:04
Correct. So we we actually kind of call that What’s your Why. Each one of us that has been on site or have been at an event or been in an Always Serving Project event. You connect with people and find out what they’re going through how what the impact really was. And it leaves an emotional stamp on yourself and kind of makes that’s what you’re better at that is your why. That’s why you grind through the days when it’s 100 degrees outside. And in Hammond, Louisiana with with I want to call it 120% humidity, but I know that’s not a legit number. But that’s what it felt like at the time. You know, and each one of us have different stories of people. And how that, for me, really went back to I always wanted to do something for others, but never quite find the fit. And then this came about where, you know, I had the smokers, I had the skill set, I could easily and I had the equipment, it made sense to do it. And then to get there and see the destructionand come back and it makes you appreciate what we tend to forget in our lives and how rough we each think things can get. And then you see somebody else really going through hard times. And it makes you realize that what you think is hard, is not that hard. And just makes you want to do more for them.
Joel Goldberg 8:28
Kind of a game changer from a mental standpoint, isn’t it, Stan?
Stan Hays 8:32
Oh, you know, it is a game changer, you know, when you when you see somebody or a group of people even better, you know, come together around, you know, the barbecue. And you can tell that they they can start seeing, you know, first it’s a little bit of normalcy, right? They can, they can see themselves having, you know, that barbecue at their house again, you know, with their neighbors, or that, that, that that community event, or whatever it is, because it takes them away from, you know what’s bad in their life at that point in time with the people that they they they love or, you know, the neighbors that they’re friends with. And it really gives that sense of community and so that, that feeling that it gives them even though it may be short lived, you know, the 10,15,20 minutes while they’re eating and everything. It gave them that normalcy that they haven’t had for a period of time. And we call that the hope you know that that’s the healing power of barbecue during that, that 10, 15, 20 minutes of time of eating that sandwich. You know, the why part is so important. And we stress it with our volunteers, you know, to tell their story about their why that Will was talking about. Because almost every one of them talks about that emotional point that you mean you brought up.
Joel Goldberg 9:57
Yeah, it’s incredible. I mean, I was telling both of you before we went on that it’s very easy to look at whatever you do in life. I think what I do happens to be unique and the greatest job ever and anyone that loves sports would probably agree with that, that wait a minute, they pay you to talk about sports that I think you guys can relate. Because, first off, almost all of us love food. You don’t like barbecue? Well, I don’t know how that’s possible. But you know, people can understand that if you are a pitmaster, that that has to be one of the coolest things. But then how do you dig down deeper and find purpose in it? Right? I mean, you could. I love baseball, I love talking about baseball. But as I told both of you there’s there’s purpose and understanding that someone’s sitting in a hospital bed or laying in a hospital bed or stationed overseas, and you’re bringing them as you guys just talked about some normalcy. In both of your cases, you’ve been reminded day after day about the power of that the healing power, as you just mentioned, of barbecue, but I want to, because my dreams were to go on TV and talk about it. And I don’t know what the two of you individually had his dreams other than from what I could tell a a skill and a love of barbecue. Will, what was yours? As you pursued this barbecue route? What did you want to do with it?
Will Cleaver 11:15
You know, initially, when I started doing competitions, I was I have four kids, all of which were in sports and activities and kind of felt like I didn’t have my own activity. I wanted to find something that the family could be a part of, I wanted to find something that was just, I’m a project manager IT guy by trade. And so I wanted to find something that was truly caused me to focus so much on it, I could forget about my job, and just focus on the competition. And there’s enough details in competition cooking, that you kind of disconnect from one world and enter another and it’s relaxing. And then you meet the people, like Stan, I met Stan within my first year of cooking. We didn’t know each other real well, but we were acquaintances. You know until OBR in so that was really how I got started in the cooking world. Not, again, I had no long term goal, I didn’t necessarily think I’d be competitive or not. I wanted to be, and I had no idea how much those decisions would lead me to where I’m at today. And Stan and I joke because where I’m at today is very much intertwined with early conversations he had had, you know, he and I had that were not related to OBR, but related to our scoring and what that then caused me to learn to then get to the next you know, it’s one of those things, you just you never know, how that rock is going to skip across the water and where you end up.
Joel Goldberg 12:44
How about for you, Stan?
Stan Hays 12:47
Man, you know, I think for me, you know, I played sports, most of my life and, and I got into barbecue and grilling because I I like food, you know, obviously and I like to cook and fire and that that sort of live fire cooking just sort of drew me in. And it became sort of getting into competition was taking the place of, you know, years of competitive tennis and football, basketball and stuff like that from you know, you know, third grade through college, and it was finding something to get that rush back, right? You know, getting a call at a barbecue contest was just like scoring a touchdown, or, or, you know, or winning a match big match. And, and getting that rush back is what I really the first time I went to a barbecue contest, I think I slept for two hours. You know, I was I was affectionately called the, I won’t use the word on here, but it’s the pit helper, but it’s used with a different name. And that’s what you did, you had to make sure that the fire was, you know, going at the constant temperature you wanted to you know, get that get that cook in. And at the end of it, you know, we got a couple of calls and I gotta go up with the team. And and as part of that, and it was a rush. That’s what hooked me on competition barbecue. I had no idea. I think similar to Will i had no idea the impact going to Joplin would make in my life. You know, I was I was in, you know, working for an insurance company on the corporate side. I’d been you know, I was in claims at the time when I started and I moved over to the marketing side and that’s where, you know, that’s when this all happened when I was on the marketing side of the company. And and as it continued to grow, you know, I remember my boss one time asking me, when are you going to do this for a living? You have so much passion and and we were so small at the time. I was like I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. But I can tell you this. I’ve found a purpose that I think is something I will always have, and it’s grown to the part of being able to make it my career and my passion at the same time. And, and I think that’s one of the most important things that people sometimes miss. And you know, and they get stuck in a job and they get, you know, they feel like they’re trapped, or they feel, you know, is when you find your passion, you know, I haven’t had a Monday and over four years.
Joel Goldberg 15:27
I agree with that. Of course, when you find a passion like that, and it’s a seven day a week type of thing, which what you guys are doing is and baseball certainly dictates that. I don’t know what the difference between a Monday or Friday is. But to your point when you love what you do Mondays as exciting as Saturday. And and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a it’s a place I wish everybody could find and hope everyone does because it truly is special. The amount of purpose and, and work that you’re doing is, is incredible. There’s a map on the website, the Operation Barbecue, operationBBQrelief.org, and within there, there’s a deployment map. I want to read off and this is at least as of this moment, what is on there. It says that under disaster 9,017,606 meals served 92 deployments, non disaster 590,671 meals served, impact 9,608,277 meals served to 30 states and the Bahamas in 1097 days. Anything from tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes, train derailment, COVID-19 response, explosions, winter storms. I mean, it’s it’s truly remarkable. When you look at the map, you see the numbers, and you see how much. What do you think Will, when you hear those numbers and see that?
Will Cleaver 16:54
I think I think what most people think when they see him is you go Oh, my God, that’s a huge number. And I think you still don’t really understand how large that number is, you know, I use the expression of take your favorite restaurant that has 100 4 tops on a Friday night. So 400 meals can be served. And they turn that four times in a night. So 1600 meals at that restaurant, and they will tell you, they were in the weeds. And it was the busiest night they’ve ever seen an ad. And that’s 1600. And you look at even right now where I want to say I think we’re around 8,500 a day and Kentucky, give or take a few, and doing that with people that don’t do it full time that are volunteers giving up their time and their time away from family and work, some of which have never been around barbecue, and watching them do that for somebody else with honestly, nothing wanted in return is an amazing part that I think I still can’t get my head around those numbers. With that. And with all of that information behind it.
Joel Goldberg 18:02
I think I mean to stand it’s like at least in my mind, I sit there and I think maybe it’s because of the origin and Joplin tornadoes, tornado hits you guys are there. But then when you start listing all that off, and you know, I don’t need to tell people how awful COVID was. But you start adding each one. I mean, train derailment. Nobody’s thinking about that. But same type of deal, right, same type of response in terms of the comfort of food, I guess.
Stan Hays 18:27
Absolutely. You know, I mean, COVID COVID is where most of you know, a good chunk of those numbers came from. I mean, over form, you know, approximately 4 million meals served in 2020. Just from COVID response. I mean, I mean, we never thought of anything like that. And it’s credit to the team that we have in our ability to morph and really look at the situations. I mean, we hired we hired caterers all over the country and became, you know, a mass feeder through local restaurants and caterers that were closing or had closed their restaurants. So we gave them a little bit of life during this, we gave them a lifeline to help pay those bills that they were going to have to pay whether they were open or closed, the rent, the light, the, you know, the gas, all of that. And they look, I mean, we look good, but they look good as a socially responsible organization pumping meals out into their community. And I mean, you know, we were the mass feeder of choice for the state of Pennsylvania. I mean, that was and when you start thinking about these things, and everybody thinks about, you know, they see these meals, they think we’re a huge organization. I mean, I think we got 18 full time or 17 full time employees and like seven part time employees, so we’re, we’re bigger than we ever have been, as far as staff wise, you know, and as certainly as far as volunteer wise, but it’s been tough. Volunteerism dropped way off during 2020. You know, a lot of our volunteers are retired, you know, or business owners. And it was a tough time for those folks to be able to come out. And so the challenging part, you know, continues and it’s a credit to the team that we’ve built. And the the field leadership that we have that has been able to continue to bring, you know, people back.
Joel Goldberg 20:22
It’s truly amazing. Before I get to my baseball themed questions, I just want to ask you guys about the world of weather and natural disasters, not all that weather related, either. I think it looks like as I’m looking at you guys on screen, I think over Stan over your right shoulder, I looks like a weather, you know, some kind of a weather image. And it almost looks like a baseball stadium to me, but it almost looks more like the eye of a hurricane is what I think I’m looking at. How much has that become part of your life, Stan, first? And Will, then you second, in terms of being in tune with what is potentially on the horizon?
Stan Hays 21:02
You know, my background, you know, I started in claims, so I was watching weather, you know, for the last 20 Some years out of college, but not to the level that it is today. I mean, I have multiple weather apps that I can go to whether it’s for wind speeds off off, you know, offshore to, you know, prediction analysis to the fact that we now contract with one of the top, you know, you know, weather predictors in in the country, to, you know, to look at these things, because, for us, it’s about staging, I mean, the amount of money we spend moving equipment around the country and everything we have to look at, hey, instead of bringing back stuff back from Kentucky, should this be better off to put it in and in a space down around Atlanta, because watching, you know, the what’s happening off the coast of Africa coming this direction? That happens to be hurricane Dorian, the picture that you’re talking about my daughter actually painted that after, you know, because she watched so much of it, because that’s the only thing that was on TV, or I had up was watching what was happening with that, that system as it came in. And so she painted that and gave it to me. So I thought yeah, that that is, you know, something to have over my shoulder as a reminder of what we do, you know. And we continue. I mean, that was our first international deployment going to the Bahamas. So it also was a big, you know, tipping point for us. 9 million meals are actually 9.661538, as of last night, is the running total. But the thing that, you know, we always tell people is the numbers, you have to think of it as, you know, serving that one hot meal that matters 9,661,538 times rather than just a number, because it’s that one meal that somebody needed that day. And they got that makes the huge difference.
Joel Goldberg 23:03
Will, how about for you? I guess, I guess you guys both have become Weather experts as much as possible, right?
Will Cleaver 23:09
Yeah, I was I was smiling. And I don’t mean to smile in a bad way. We internally joke about the first deployment of each year, because our volunteers get very excited to go out and help people and reconnect with other volunteers that they’ve met along the way. And so there is this mad dash of information that comes flying in when a storm is a week away, that may not even come to fruition in our volunteer chat groups and all that. And it’s great to see because they’re so engaged. You know, and again, at the end of the day, we hope there’s never another storm, we hope we don’t ever have to see you again. But we know that’s just not the case. So that’s why I was smiling a second ago, Stan was talking because it gets it’s it’s not funny, but it’s funny to see all the information or everybody making predictions of paths and like, alright, we’re watching this guys, we promise you, we got a team watching this too. And yes, we all watch the weather to see what’s happening to see what may be happening. And I think the biggest thing like Stan mentioned earlier with what we’ve learned is, is how do we best predict what we think’s going to happen? Typically, it’s more on the season so that our equipment is closer so we can respond faster. And the last point that he mentioned about the one meal that matters is that, you know, fortunately, unfortunately, anytime anytime you’re a nonprofit, you want that corporate backing from different partners and sponsors and whatnot, and they want to know where their dollars are being impacted and how big the impact is. But on the ground we really truly, and Stans’ the one that coined that phrase, the one meal that matters happened in Joplin. Day seven or eight. The city was kind of coming back to life. We had taken over a parking lot and it was in front of an office man accent a restaurant and people are now coming through that are coming to see the storm damage and not actually from the area. And some of our volunteers are getting very frustrated with why are people coming into our line to get meals that don’t need it and could go to the restaurant. And it got, I was moderately heated. And Stan stands response was a little bit moderately heated, I’ll keep it clean. But leave the gist of it was I don’t care if I give 10 meals, I don’t care if I give 10 meals out that aren’t needed, as long as we get the one meal out that is. And that’s something that has always been the focus. Yes, we push the larger number because we have to have the financial backing. And companies want to know if I give you x, what’s that impact, they don’t want to know that, oh, if I give you x, you’re gonna get one meal out. They understand it. But from their marketing budgets and what they’re trying to do and their voice, we have to push that larger number even though internally, I don’t care if it’s 9 million, 2 million or five. The meals that go out are the ones that we want to get out the people that it impacts, as long as it impacts them. That’s all I care about. And that’s all Stan cares about.
Joel Goldberg 26:15
Pretty simple it when you hear it that way. And really, ultimately what it’s about, I want to hit you guys with my baseball themed questions, either of you, or both can answer it. But you have a homerun in terms of in terms of the organization, Stan, and what you guys have been able to do?
Stan Hays 26:33
I think the probably the first home run that that we can look at that was like what I look at is watershed moments, right? Things that make a dramatic impact. And I think it was probably hurricane Harvey being the largest one that we had, because we’re in a small organization, you know, that is all volunteer run at this point in time. And we’re going into it with a small bank account into what was potentially going to be one of the worst hurricanes to hit, you know, the Texas, the Texas coast because it was hitting Houston, which is one of the biggest, you know, potential trap, you know, disaster zones in the country because of the population and the industry there. And we’re going into this thing. At the same time, you know, CNN is working on CNN Heroes with us at this point in time, which they had just told us the week before this happened, that they were probably going to push us to the next year because there hadn’t been a disaster, a big disaster, and they wanted to showcase what we do. And, you know, at the same time, you know, we’re doing filming that, we’ve got Fox News setting up in our parking lot doing, you know, Martha McCallum doing her show from the parking lot, we have all kinds of different groups coming in to help us. The food, take the food out, it was probably the most organized chaos that that you could have. And at the end of the time, we serve more meals than we have ever served, we still hold our record for the number of meals served in one day still holds true and that down there. And in Houston. Our biggest day is just over 56,000 meals in one day. And it was pumped out of a parking lot downtown. And I say that because it’s hard to wrap your head around that. That number, how big that is, and impact that made in one day. You know, but the bigger number is that you had about 150 people in a parking lot that came together as a team to make it happen. So when I when you talk about a home run, I don’t think there was more perfect storm, no pun intended, there are bad pun in the way we came together as a barbecue community is, as I call it, barbecue family to make a difference. In in Houston and and we were thanked graciously by by the City of Houston. And and you know, by this one of the largest barbecue contests in the country is is the Houston livestock and rodeo show. And because of one of the volunteers that actually is on the committee, there hearing one of our guys say, Yeah, you know, one of these days, I’m gonna cook that rodeo when I can get a chance to get there. And you know, unbeknownst to us one day, all of a sudden, you know, here’s the chairman of the board, announcing to the world that they’re giving a spot donating a spot, because of all the work we did in that community to thank us, and because they heard, you know what we wanted to do. And we’ve been cooking it ever since we actually, you know, we actually want it two years after that. So we also showed the world that we’re not just a bunch of cooks that come together and feeding the community. We’re some pretty darn good cooks. So I think I think it was you know, out of all of them. And I can I can list off four more of them that I think made huge impacts. But I think that was the biggest one.
Will Cleaver 30:06
And to put that 56,000 into perspective is that’s 18,000 pounds of protein. That is 20 over 2200, number 10 size, a large size of sides, green beans, corn whatnot. In that one day, that was also very time when we much appreciated electric can openers, because manual ones. So this is the evolution you get my home run would be the evolution of how we’ve where we’ve gotten to where we’ve gotten, what we’ve learned, the efficiencies we’ve gained, and the majority of that has come from volunteers, and the different experiences they’ve had. And to me, that’s kind of a continual homerun.
Joel Goldberg 30:56
How about a swing and a miss either one of you, and what did you learn from it? There are going to be swings and misses every day, I’m sure.
Will Cleaver 31:04
I think I’m gonna take this one I’m gonna go with since I’m on the back end in the accounting world, and we started off and even in Joplin, we I think we had a few $1,000. left over, we’d already talked about, we purchased the domain, we talked about doing our 5013 C, and we are ignorant enough to know that are too ignorant to understand that when you file for a 5013 C, there’s some dollars involved to actually get that filing completed. And that ended up coming out of Stan and I’s pocket. And that and making sure that you start off in the proper manner in regards to your 990 and your nonprofit financial tracking. Not that we did anything wrong, but we looked at it as a corporation or company versus how to nonprofit and how that aligns. And to me, that was one of the swing and misses that again, we just didn’t know, we didn’t know there was there is no manual out there on how to create a disaster, nonprofit.
Joel Goldberg 32:02
Last baseball themed question, small ball, little things that add to the big results. What is that for you guys Stan? What are the little things that matter?
Stan Hays 32:13
But the little things that matter are the people. Tt’s the volunteers. You know, we can’t do anything. Now that it’s our lifeblood. And, you know, that would also probably been one of my swing and misses is how we have, you know, evolved over time with our volunteers, keeping them engaged during, you know, really our non-disaster programs that I mentioned. We started our volunteers engaged, because we saw that we spent a lot of time with other people. And it was a slow year, and we’re like, we got to do something, otherwise we’re gonna go. You know, it could be offered … at the people that were in how we can indoctrinate them, how we can use their passion to continue to move things forward for the organization.
Joel Goldberg 33:14
Will, how about for you, small ball?
Will Cleaver 33:16
I would agree, I think it’s on never forget early on, we’d have someone come up and be like, you know, hey, I want to get involved. And I would go through with the idea of, I’m going to tell you all the different areas you can get involved with something else stick, not realizing that instead of doing that I was overwhelming the hell out of them with all the crap that needed to be done to run things day to day and how we run things on deployments. And so now it’s a matter of really finding out that even if you are retired or can’t go on site, or can’t actually participate in deployments or events, sharing our information on social media and your social media gives us validity. Because there are so many sketchy things out there in the world of disaster. Anytime we can build validity, and point people back to our financial disclosures, what we do, our audits, all that stuff, and show them that not only do we have a great message, not only do we actually put that message into place of getting that one meal out that matters, but we do it in a great way. We do it with having standards with what we were how we practice is what we preach. It’s never we don’t want to ever leave anything to the gray area to have someone doubt our attendance.
Joel Goldberg 34:31
Well, it’s incredible. I want to let everybody know, and I’ll do this right at the end again, too, as we wrap it up that that anyone can get involved, whether it’s donating, volunteering, a lot of different ways. So I really encourage everybody to check out the website just to see the magnitude of everything we’ve talked about to OperationBBQrelief.org. Operation BBQrelief.org. That’ll be in the show notes, as well. Before we wrap it up. I usually like to do a few final questions. I mean, I can sit there and you’re rounding the bases for final questions and ask you favorite this favorite that favorite award favorite? I mean, books. You guys have done it all. So you’ve been asked all those things but but one go to, for each of you one go to anything in the barbecue world that you want to serve. What is it going to be? What’s your favorite Will?
How about you Stan?
Well, let me do this real quick. Then if you’re in I’m narrowing it down here but I always get a kick out of say Kansas City says they have the best barbecue, Texas says they have the best barbecue, Carolina says they have the best barbecue,Tennessee says they have the best barbecue. I know I’m excluding a lot there. But but they’re not all created equal. I think I mean, we’re talking about different things. So just real quick, Stan, if you go to Texas, you’re ordering what?
Stan Hays 36:39
I’m ordering a whole hog sandwich. And I want the crackling, you know, chopped in with it. And everything that goes with it.
Joel Goldberg 36:52
Will you agree with that one?
Will Cleaver 36:53
Joel Goldberg 36:55
I got to make sure I reference this back whenever I go to any of these places the next time. How about Tennessee? What are you doing in Tennessee, I can smell the ribs when you walk by Rendezvous in in Memphis. When I was a college intern many, many, many years ago for a television station. I lived in an apartment a block from there so you could smell it. You know, in the afternoon wafting every single day. What are you doing in Tennessee?
Stan Hays 37:20
I think it is ribs and Tennessee. And I think it’s dry ribs. It’s its ability to sit there at the table, adding some more dry rub across the top with a little bit of vinegar that they have sitting on the table just specifically for that. It’s amazing. I mean, how how it just comes together when you do that? Because I wouldn’t you know, intuitively you just don’t think of that. And but, you know, once you’ve had it, man it is it’s tough to say it’s not some of the best ribs you’ve ever had.
Joel Goldberg 37:55
Will Cleaver 37:56
Agree. That’s why I let him pick the restaurants.
Joel Goldberg 38:01
That’s where you could disagree, I suppose. But if you know going in, like this is the specialty here, right?
Will Cleaver 38:06
You know, Joel, honestly, the thing that you get spoiled with is that one of the things we do for our volunteers that we have what’s called a Camp Chef, so that we’re providing meals on site. And then you have award winning chefs and barbecue cooks coming and helping to prepare meals and maybe for the week, maybe for a day or two. And since we started the Camp Chef program, the deployments I’ve been on, I’m no longer losing weight out in the parking lot sweating. I’m coming home looking for a fruit plate or a vegetable plate because of the amount of food that’s created and how good the food is. And so you get spoiled real quick.
Joel Goldberg 38:44
Just cheesy corn counters. Anyway. What about Kansas City, then what will be what will be the go to in Kansas City?
Stan Hays 38:51
I think Will said it. I mean, I don’t think anybody across the country can do burn ends the way Kansas City does a great job. I love it all. But I think if you got to pick one meat in Kansas City burnt ends is what no one else understands.
Will Cleaver 39:11
I’m not gonna say that. But you can say that.
Joel Goldberg 39:13
I can say that. Because I’m just I’m just an I’m not even an amateur. I’m just a consumer. Not all burnt ends are created equal, although they can be done in different ways and equally good, but there are plenty of them. That are not we’re not even talking about sides and all that stuff. We’ll end with this because I think it’s important. You guys as is the case for for any growing, impactful organization are doing more than just disaster relief. Now you’re starting to teach. Stan, tell me about that in this endeavor.
Stan Hays 39:43
Yes. So we call it our Always Serving Project because we decided to focus on those heroes that are always giving and we focus on our first responders, our veterans, our military members. We’ve been doing stuff with, you know the frontline workers as well during this time. And we purchased 180 acre property down on Lake of the Ozarks, it’s got about 1500 feet of Lake frontage, trails throughout it, will hopefully do some hunting camps, but it’s really about bringing families together that are suffering from the physical or emotional injuries that have been sustained by the service member, and how it fragments the family unit. And what we want to do is bring nature, bring them to nature, bring them to an area, but use food, a unifier, you know, probably the single best unifier in the world, is bringing people around food and bringing them together to help them communicate to help them grow. And if we can bring families together and use the educational piece of grilling and barbecue, you know, if they’re struggling and communicating, the Imad immediately are able to because you don’t you’re you don’t want a kid to get hurt around a grill, you don’t want them to burn themselves, you don’t want them to cut themselves. So that automatic coaching, that that is just natural for parents starts happening, and it becomes very natural. And if we can do this, and then, you know, let’s face it. There, it’s its nature, there’s not going to be you know, streaming on the internet for kids, they’re going to have to go out and do a hike, they’re going to have to go down to the, to the riverbank and throw that fishing line in, you know, it’s going to give them an opportunity, you know, to come together differently, and with other families that are struggling. So they can see that, hey, they’re not alone. I mean, they know they’re not alone, but they get to physically see it this way. And so many camps and programs out there right now, do not include the whole family unit. And so that’s why the majority of the camps that we’ll be doing, will focus on on these things. And, you know, those camps hopefully will start next year, we’ll start small and grow from there. But like everything else, we’re struggling right now with, with the funding coming through to build cabins and to you know, find contractors that will build cabins and find the product and, and so that that whole thing is the challenge that we face today. But it’s so exciting, because when you look at those, you mentioned the number of days that we’ve been deployed over 1100 days, but that’s over, that’s over 11 years, you know, so that it’s really a small number of days that we’re making an impact. And if we can start using these blue sky days that there’s so many more of, and we’re impacting them on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Now we can start showing a much broader approach. And let’s face it, we’re hoping that these people get a passion for grilling and barbecue, maybe they can become volunteers with us. Maybe they go to their church and they start doing things, maybe they they start doing some barbecue for their kids Little League team as a fundraiser, whatever it is, we just want them to find a passion like we’ve found, and a way that they can have an outlet.
Joel Goldberg 43:12
On that note, it’s a great and inspiring way to end. Such a long term impact. You you both and everyone that is working for you or volunteering for you does so much in the moment. And I loved it in our research that we saw something that said psychologists have told OBR that barbecue specifically is a comfort food that detracts victims from the loss their suffering and helps them escape to backyard barbecues and happier times. That to me was something I so relate to, with baseball and what we’re able to do in sometimes tough moments for people. So I just want to commend you too. And you’ve been you’ve been applauded and commended many many times over the years. And I know you’ll continue to be as well because unfortunately, the disasters aren’t going to end we just know that that’s that’s a fact of life here in the United States and around the world. So continue to serve up that that good food and the love and and all the work you’re doing. I want to remind everybody again, just check it out to get involved in any which way possible. And there are a lot of ways to do so. OperationBBQ relief.org. operationbbqrelief.org. It’ll be in the show notes. Two award winning pitmasters who have really made an impact all across the United States and beyond Stan Hayes and Will Cleaver of Operation Barbecue Relief. Gentlemen, thank you so much continued success with what you’re doing, stay safe and continue to make an impact.
Stan Hays 44:41
Thank Joel. Appreciate the opportunity.
Will Cleaver 35:26
My favorite in the barbecue world. See, normally when Stan and I are together, I default to him. And he picks where we eat. He does a much better job of researching these things. So I’ve just learned I just default to him. But my favorite is probably burnt ends
Stan Hays 35:46
Well, that probably would have been my answer, you know, because I think it really depends on where I’m at. Because I really look at the different regions of the country. And I’ll go to what I think’s their their strongest suit, but for me, it’s probably ribs.
I’m ordering brisket.
Joel Goldberg 36:33
Will agrees on that one. If you’re going to Carolina, what do you order?
I agree with that. And if they don’t understand that they don’t do it right.