The spirit of giving and the spirit of competition were both at work Tuesday at the City Union Mission. Normally the barbecue pitmasters with Operation BBQ Relief compete, but on Christmas, they were coming together, making everyone winners.

Operation BBQ Relief, a not-for-profit disaster relief organization, spent part of the holidays serving people with no place to go for Christmas.

Homeless guests in the City Union Mission shelter in Kansas City, MO, are being treated to lunch and dinner cooked and prepared by competition barbecue pitmasters who are volunteers with Operation BBQ Relief.

“These beans will take around 40 minutes to warm up,” volunteer chef Terry Shawhan said. “We stored it outside in freezers last night so it stayed good and frozen”

One meal will be the traditional holiday meal with smoked turkey. The second one will feature pulled pork and accompanying barbecue side dishes. Food and supplies were donated by Sam’s Club.

“There will be satisfaction knowing that we’re helping some people out that might not have such a good meal…Or at least we hope is a good meal today,” Shawhan said.

The organization expects to serve more than 1,000 free meals Tuesday.

“The mission of Operation BBQ Relief is to provide compassion, hope and friendship to people in need during natural disasters,” co-founder Jeff Stith said in a news release. “During this holiday season, we would like to go beyond our mission and help others who are hungry and in need of a hot, nutritious meal by using the talents with which our volunteers have been blessed.”

“The competition goes away - a head cook one day is washing dishes the next. Egos are left at the doorstep, bragging rights are left there. We all just want to help out,” volunteer chef Will Cleaver said. joy out of giving, those receiving the meals said they appreciate the kindness.

“It was Christmas, for real, to be precise. Thank you, I’m grateful,” a man named Timothy said.

“It means a lot because right now I can’t be with my loved ones, so this is a step, kind of like that you know? These guys are as close to a family member as I have,” another man named Scott said.

While the competition between pitmasters heats up on other days, on Christmas it wasn’t about the awards, but rather the rewards of a job well done.

“Oh it’s a wonderful way to spend Christmas Day, absolutely wonderful. I’ve been looking forward to it since we’ve heard about it,” volunteer Billi Jo Buschmann said. “I just see someone who is hungry and wanting to hang out and be with other people on Christmas Day and have a good BBQ meal.”

“We cook anyways, so we don’t need much of an excuse to fire up a smoker and start cooking meat and to do it for a good cause is incredible rewarding,” Cleaver said.

Operation BBQ Relief was founded in May 2011 when it planned and put together a massive relief effort in Joplin, MO. Professional competition barbecue teams and other volunteers from eight states responded to Joplin in the wake of the deadly EF5 tornado that killed more than 150 people and destroyed a third of the city.

The group served approximately 120,000 meals in 11 days to displaced families and first responders. Since then, Operation BBQ Relief has mobilized during floods, wildfires, hurricanes and tornado disasters in 14 states around the U.S., and in only 19 months has provided more than 306,000 meals.

Operation BBQ Relief can mobilize with a consistent operations model to provide hot meals to people in need anywhere that natural disasters occur across the country.

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