Operation BBQ Relief serves up meals for tornado victims

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SMITHVILLE, Mo. -- As families work to repair their homes in tornado damaged areas, one need many don't have time to worry about is where they're going to get their next meal.

Operation BBQ Relief is helping to eliminate that worry.

The charitable group, based in Pleasant Hill, Mo., started six years ago providing hot barbecue to tornado victims in Joplin, Mo.

Volunteers travel to disasters all across the nation to provide Kansas City style relief.

But this is the first time the group has mobilized to help neighbors in the metro area.

Working with locally-based Chops BBQ restaurant, volunteers fed about 200 people in Smithville on Tuesday, and plan to serve hundreds more Wednesday.

Dan Ulledahl said after the twister blew through, he mobilized Kansas City's big barbecue community.

"I’m more than willing to give up some of my time to run over there and help," said Ulledahl, Chops BBQ owner. "The restaurant is open. We will operate in the back half of the kitchen. The smoker this time of day is usually just warming food back up. We’ll get it all in our warmers and be able to have full service in the restaurant and come out the back as catering to these folks in need."

Ulledahl knows what it's like to experience a loss. Fire damaged his restaurant last September, just as he was preparing to open. He said folks in Clay County rallied around him and helped make his barbecue joint a success. He said efforts like this are the least he can do to give back.

Operation BBQ Relief provided its one millionth meal last August to disaster victims in Louisiana. The group has more than 4,500 volunteers in the metro area.