PLEASANT HILL, Missouri- Missouri resident Stan Hays has been recognized as a CNN Hero by the network. He is one five honored by the news broadcaster for actively assisting in hurricane relief efforts.


“It is a true honor for me to accept this CNN hero award on behalf of Operation BBQ Relief. This award represents the true hero, our volunteers. Our volunteer base is nothing less than incredible,” Hays said.


Hays is the cofounder of Operation BBQ Relief which was originally started to feed victims of the May 2011 Joplin Tornado. The group, headed Hays who was with County Line Smokers, Jeff Stith with Big Creek BBQ and Will Cleaver of Sticks N Chicks BBQ, was able to serve over 120,000 barbecue meals in less than two weeks during the operation in tornado stricken Missouri City.

Here is an excerpt of a conversation CNN had with Hays:

CNN:  How does your organization mobilize when a disaster hits?

Stan Hays:  Over the last six years, we’ve responded to tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, wildfires. Every disaster requires a different response, but our goal is always to be in an area within 24 to 48 hours. We’re able to do that because we don’t have a lot of bureaucracy. There’s a small group that makes the decision on “Do we go?” And sometimes there is no decision — I mean, it wasn’t “Are we going to respond to Harvey?” It was “When” and “Where are we going to go?”

Our focus is getting it done. After we know we’re deploying, I email our partners for help with donations and other assistance we’ll be needing and we post on social media to alert our volunteers. Then we get into logistics: finding a location, equipment, proteins, how many pounds of rub, how many gallons of sauce. Our smokers are generally up and running within a day.

CNN: Who are your volunteers on site?

Hays: The core group of our organization are all pitmasters or grillmasters, (but) our volunteers come from everywhere now. You can go from a small disaster with 12 volunteers to a big one where you’re running 100-150 volunteers a day. There are always at least two to three people on site who have Serve Safe, a national food handling certification, and we have twice daily volunteer orientations that cover health and safety issues. We often work 18-hour days keeping everything going. But we are just a stopgap — we only stay in the area until restaurants and grocery stores are open.

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