Operation BBQ Relief splitting efforts between American Royal & hurricane relief

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The American Royal barbecue competition is getting ready to kick off in KCK this weekend.

Operation BBQ Relief hopes the event can help raise money to provide some comfort food to people who are affected by Hurricane Florence and other disasters.

On Thursday, the group set up shop at the Kansas City-based event with large smokers that are designed to feed the masses.

“ You can get about 70 butts in this one,” Will Cleaver, Co-Founder of Operation BBQ Relief said.

Those smokers get the most use, not at competitions like the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, but immediately after natural disasters.

“In Houston and Irma, we had 11 pits this size running,” Cleaver said.

Operation BBQ Relief started in 2011 after the Joplin tornado.

“What we are set up to do is just show up hour 12 after a disaster and by hour 20 be able to have meals going out to first responders and people affected by the disasters,” he said.

Operation BBQ Relief volunteers are in North Carolina right now gearing up to provide meals as soon as Hurricane Florence passes.

“Our expectations are probably between 15,000 to 40,000 meals a day,” Cleaver said.

Thanks to generous partnerships, they’ve got the meat, propane and other supplies needed to make it happen, but another important need is volunteers.

“The deployment coming up, North Carolina, we are right now recruiting volunteers, upwards of 100 or 200 volunteers, and those volunteers will be responsible for executing the menu, the delivery, the distribution," Cleaver said.

It takes a lot of money and a lot of time to support a mission like this, but organizers said the response they get from community members makes it all worth it.

“We had no idea what a hot meal meant to someone who hasn’t had one in a couple days,” Cleaver said.

Since 2011, Operation BBQ relief has provided more than 1.7 million meals to people after disasters.

To volunteer or donate money to support their operations, visit this site.