BY THE NUMBERS
1.78M meals served
25 states visited
51 communities served
271 total days deployed
6.7K volunteers

Sometimes when life is tough, you just need a hot barbecue meal.

That’s the motto Bryan Roppolo has adopted as Director of Field Operations for Operation BBQ Relief, a natural disaster response team based in Missouri. The Shreveporter is currently in North Carolina as he prepares for one of the worst storms in his lifetime — Hurricane Florence.

“Florence is about to get ugly,” said Roppolo, who was on the road traveling at the time. “I worked Harvey last year. It’s going to be very devastating. We’re on the front end of it, so we’re trying to get there as soon as possible.”

That was Wednesday, Sept. 12. Roppolo and his team made it there just in time; the Category 1 hurricane officially hit at 7:15 a.m. eastern time today near Wrightsville Beach, just east of Wilmington.

“We’re going to help as many people as we can as fast as possible,” he said. “We have 35,000 people to feed and that’s before the storm hits. The numbers will grow. We’re planning for a 300,000 to 400,000 meal deployment over 14 days.”

While Roppolo may serve as a director for the organization, he started as a cook in 2014 and quickly became the state lead for Louisiana. The disaster relief organization was founded in May 2011 in response to the Joplin, Missouri tornados when competition barbecue teams were assembled to help feed displaced families and emergency personnel. From there it grew into the nonprofit it is today. Roppolo took on his leadership role in 2015 during the massive flooding in north Louisiana.

“I’ve always said a hot barbecue meal brings normalcy back to someone’s life,” he said. “It’s rewarding. A lot of the times we don’t see the end user in our process, but it’s rewarding to know we’ve fed someone we may never see or meet.”

Roppolo noted this specific organization operates solely on donations from the community and urges our community in Shreveport/Bossier City to help when they can.

“We want to help these people who have lost everything, one barbecue meal at a time,” he said.

You can find more information on Operation BBQ Relief and how to donate at operationbbqrelief.org.