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Personal Stories

Devastation Hits, and the Grill Teams Get Cooking

Devastation Hits, and the Grill Teams Get Cooking
National Guardsmen on their way to deliver a load of slow-cooked pork meals to local shelters. Front row: Three Men and a Baby Back crew Dan Krystyniak, Marc Mangano, a Guardsman, and Dana Reed.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we've seen photos and heard the inspiring stories of people helping neighbors to shovel sand out of their ravaged homes, of young people carrying water up flights of stairs for elderly neighbors and relatives, and of strangers offering sidewalk charging stations and a place to rest. But have you heard about the nurse practitioner, who happens to be a professional competitive BBQ griller, who helped to feed 6000 people in New York and New Jersey? Didn't think so!

Dana Reed is an acute care nurse practitioner in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at NYP/Columbia, but in his spare time, he and buddies Marc Mangano and Dan Krystyniak, together known as Three Men and a Baby Back, compete internationally in the world of competitive BBQ. That's right. They are quite successful at it too, having won numerous competitions including first place grilling at the 2012 Jack Daniels World Championship in Lynchburg TN just days before superstorm Sandy. Dana returned from the competition early on Monday October 29 in order to avoid traveling during the brunt of the storm, which he rode out with his wife and twin boys in their northern New Jersey home.

The Reeds' two vehicles were totaled by a large tree, and the roof of their house sustained a hole from another fallen tree. Yet Dana realized that his BBQ team could help others who were suffering through the aftermath in shelters or in homes with no electricity. He called Operation BBQ Relief, a non-profit organization established in Joplin MO to feed displaced families and emergency workers after the devastating 2011 tornado there. Operation BBQ Relief (OBR) was happy to support Dana in his offer to coordinate teams to cook hot meals for those in need after Hurricane Sandy.

Under Dana's direction, Three Men and a Baby Back and ten other BBQ teams from New Jersey, New Hampshire and Boston hauled their gear to Hoboken, NJ, Brick Township NJ, and downtown Manhattan, where they were met by donations of food and supplies solicited largely by OBR. Despite the smashed windshield and crushed cab, his truck was all he had to tow the team's 20-foot professional trailer, so he taped the windshield the best he could and drove it anyway. Round-the-clock grilling began Saturday afternoon with careful planning: slow-cooked pork, which National Guardsmen would bring to shelters in the area, as well as fast-cooking chicken, hot dogs, vegetables, and baked beans for the continuous lines of people on the street. The volunteers barely slept each night (in their vehicles), so as to continue the night-time grilling and to serve those coming along at all hours. Altogether, they served over 6000 meals from their spot on the Hoboken sidewalk.

Before the BBQ cavalry arrived, the National Guard had been delivering military rations to people staying in the shelters. And even though many people were in their homes, they had no electricity, grocery stores were bare, and restaurants could not open. "People were really happy to have warm, substantial food," says Dana. He gives ORB founders Stan Hays and Jeff Stith much credit for their help, saying "they were instrumental" in making sure the volunteers had adequate food supplies. Donations were provided by grocery stores, restaurant wholesalers, and many small restaurants from across the east coast. Other BBQ teams from around the country likely would have made the trip and volunteered as well, had gasoline been available in the area.

After three days on the Hoboken sidewalk, it became apparent that some other areas were in greater need. Dana packed up the Hoboken location and deployed the volunteers who could continue working that week to Coney Island, where they joined teams from Memphis and elsewhere.

Back at work after the long weekend, Dana is still recovering from the intense experience. He is very happy not only to have been able to help feed 6000 people, but that he was able to coordinate the other volunteers so they too had a positive experience. "It is very satisfying to know you've helped people in their time of need," he says. "It puts things in perspective."

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