Richmond man helps feed thousands of hurricane victims through Operation Barbecue Relief

Volunteers with Operation BBQ Relief prepare food for victims of Hurricane Florence.
Volunteers with Operation BBQ Relief prepare food for victims of Hurricane Florence.(Jeff Odell)
Updated: Sep. 24, 2018 at 3:28 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Jeff Odell, of Richmond, is helping to feed thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Florence.

As Odell watched Hurricane Florence ravage areas of North Carolina, he knew he had to do something.

“It’s about giving back at this point of my life that I’ve got the opportunity,” Odell said.

Odell, who spends much of his free time cooking on his outdoor smoker, found the perfect opportunity with Operation BBQ Relief.

Operation BBQ Relief was created in 2011 after tornadoes caused widespread damage in Joplin, Missouri. The nonprofit provides nutritious meals to victims of natural disasters.

“It grew from there into this massive operation that is now serving hundreds of thousands of meals for Hurricane Florence relief,” Odell said.

Last week, Odell drove several hours last week to Fayetteville, North Carolina to help cook and serve those meals.

“I did everything from scrubbing tables to panning food for large trays for distribution,” Odell said. “It’s not just barbecue because you’re doing such mass quantities, it’s all cooked on large smokers. There is pulled pork, pork tenderloin, turkey and most of the sides are dried beans and rice and things of that nature and canned baked beans, peaches, fruit, stuff like that. A hot meal goes a long way when your house is flooded and you have no electricity.”

Now, he’s packing to go back Tuesday morning.

“Some of the stories, people I met, made me want to go back and help again,” Odell said.

The stories are heart wrenching, like the story of a woman who showed up and said her mobile home washed away in the flood.

“We packed her up some food and water bottles and put it in the car.” Odell said. “And we noticed an empty crate and we asked her about it and she said her dog drowned in the flood so that’s why I’m going back.”

Odell will deploy Tuesday morning, prepared to provide in any way he can, to help people who lost everything.

“Once the water clears the misery is just beginning, the recovery effort from Florence from the flooding will last for months,” Odell said.

Odell says Tuesday won’t be his last deployment, he plans to go back to help in the coming months too.

Anyone can get involved in Operation BBQ Relief and learn how to do so on their website.

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