Operation BBQ Relief serving meals to those displaced in Houston - KCTV5

Operation BBQ Relief serving meals to those displaced in Houston following Harvey

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Operation BBQ Relief's small mobile smoker has a capacity of 400 pounds of meat, while it's larger smoker can cook 900 pounds in a turn. Operation BBQ Relief's small mobile smoker has a capacity of 400 pounds of meat, while it's larger smoker can cook 900 pounds in a turn.

The American Royal Barbecue at the Speedway will be pit master central - and that includes a group that parlays their mobile cooking skills into disaster relief.

Operation BBQ Relief's small mobile smoker has a capacity of 400 pounds of meat, while it's larger smoker can cook 900 pounds in a turn. 

The idea for Operation BBQ Relief began with the deadly tornado in Joplin six years ago.

A handful of competitors determined they could cook on the road all the time.

“We’re self-sufficient," said Will Cleaver of Operation BBQ Relief. "A lot of us have our own trailers that are health department certified, have power, have water.”

In Joplin, the group cooked 100,000 meals. 

Since then, they’ve been to 34 disasters in 21 states, with bases in Kansas City and in Memphis.

They turn to local groups to collect and distribute the hot meals the barbeque masters make.

“We never want to get in the way of the community taking care of itself," Cleaver said. "That healing process is important.”

The founders and growing number of volunteers have learned a lot about healing over the years.

They can’t feed on the scale of non-profits like the American Red Cross, but they’ve heard again and again that this kind of meal doesn’t just fill bellies, but also boosts moods.

“Barbecue’s got that innate ability of reminding you of a family get together, a reunion, a party," Cleaver said. "It brings back good feelings.”

Interested in helping out? Donate here!

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