Barbeque Saves: The story of a salesman and feeding Harvey's first responders
The rain was still falling on Houston when an empty parking lot across from the downtown Allen Center became home to some serious barbeque. Over a dozen meat smokers and 1000 volunteers with a love for barbeque showed up to feed first responders. An unlikely addition to the mix was a charcoal sales rep with a nose for marketing in the midst of disaster.
Joey Machado, a rep for B&B Charcoal, was just getting to know Operation BBQ Relief (referred to as OBR) before Harvey hit. The non-profit, known for feeding first responders with barbeque, was a connection Machado wanted to nurture. Aligning B & B Charcoal with a great barbeque non-profit and their good work would be great marketing. With that in mind, Machado arranged to bring B&B donations to OBR's booth at The American Royal in Kansas City, with his family in tow. Considered the World Series of barbeque, the event would be Machado's family vacation this year too.
After the Harvey hit, however, it became clear that plans would have to change. Machado reached out to OBR. Did they want the American Royal donations to go to Houston instead? Machado acknowledged, “There were marketing aspects to it… politically it just wouldn’t have looked right... for us to go to this party while everyone else is having problems.” Machado put his family’s America Royal vacation on the backburner and packed his truck and trailer with supplies. He left to meet OBR in Houston on August 28th and he "was planning on [dropping off the supplies], going back home, loading up and going to Kansas.”
Once Machado was on the road, though, it took him over a day just to get into Houston with the supplies from his home in Seguin, TX. By the time he arrived in Houston that there was a lot of work to be done. “I’m one of those people that gets get heavily involved with whatever it is I’m in.” After unloading his trailer and truck, he started moving from one task to the next. And “before I knew it, it was day 5 or 6.”
Joey ended up staying with the OBR Houston deployment a full 11 days, until the last meals were distributed. He took over supply management while volunteer teams cooked 24 hours a day to keep food on first responder’s plates. While Machado was absorbed in keeping first responders fed, his family was still at home. With the chance for a vacation gone, they came out on the weekends to visit and volunteer alongside Machado
Joey's marketing move ended up serving B&B Charcoal’s sales in the long run anyway, even after he'd forgotten his ulterior motives. He sheepishly admitted, “Going into this I had a marketing strategy…but I never expected that I'd actually get brand loyalty out of it. After being surrounded by hundreds of [OBR] volunteers from all over the US, many left saying, they’d never use another charcoal.”
Three days after arriving back home from Houston, Machado got a call from OBR and got on the road again. This time to bring supplies and support efforts in Estero, Florida after Hurricane Irma.
Operation BBQ Relief fed 371,760 first responder meals in Houston and surrounding areas after Harvey. Meals were given to more than 175 different churches, fire and police departments, and other groups over the course of 11 days. If you’d like to support Operation BBQ Relief and the work that they do, visit operationbbqrelief.org
Photos provided by Operation BBQ Relief and B&B Charcoal