Six years ago, a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma. Jeremy Bruce, now the chief technology officer for OBR, packed up and went from his home in Georgia back to Oklahoma where his mother’s house had been hit by the tornado.
“While we were preparing to come back home to take care of the family, we heard about OBR, and said ‘oh hey, I think we can help those guys out.’ We rounded up a bunch of supplies that they were requesting for donations and stopped off at the deployment site to deliver them,” Bruce says. “I met Will Cleaver (co-founder, CFO/COO) and told him I’d be back as soon as I got my mom’s place taken care of, fully anticipating just coming back and donating a day of my time and then going back to Georgia. Ten days later I left the cook site, and I haven’t looked back.”
Currently, Bruce works diligently to develop and enhance the apps that volunteers use to engage with OBR, as well as OBR’s operations applications. The apps volunteers use allow them to sign up for deployment, fundraising opportunities or events hosted by OBR. The operations team uses the back-end apps to manage and run deployments, manage orders for meals, deploy volunteers, engage other disaster relief organizations and ultimately get meals cooked and delivered to first responders and victims.
Operations, volunteers and sponsors all need access to the apps during deployment. OBR and its contemporaries deal in natural disasters which often knock out normal means of communications and travel. To facilitate, OBR rolls a mobile command center out to deployments. Through Wi-Fi and hot spots set up throughout the deployment area and cook site, volunteers and operations people can access the apps needed to run the deployment.
“We have a very technology driven component to our operations and that’s where I spend a majority of my time,” Bruce says.
Bruce and the entire executive team all agree that without the volunteers, the organization simply couldn’t feed the numbers it does. Also, the team agrees on the other integral piece that brings the entire operation together, OBR’s sponsorship partners.
An integral piece
OBR’s list of sponsorship partners varies widely, and each partner brings something unique and necessary to the relationship. Ole Hickory wood-burning barbecue pits give volunteers a place to cook and Blue Rhino propane provides fuel just to name two of the many partners. However, OBR and its entire team agree that one partnership stands out and gives OBR the resources it needs to operate at the level it does.
The Moore, Oklahoma, tornado gave birth to a special relationship between Seaboard Foods and OBR. Seaboard Foods operates farms and processing facilities in Oklahoma. A Guymon, Oklahoma, resident made Seaboard aware of OBR’s need for meat during the disaster and Seaboard responded with a 10,000-lb. donation of pork from its Guymon plant.
“OBR demonstrated its adaptability and creativity to develop a meatloaf recipe using ground pork,” says David Eaheart, director of communications and marketing for Seaboard Foods, Merriam, Kansas. “Following that, conversations started as OBR started to grow.”
Seaboard and Paul Peterson, director of corporate relations for OBR, discussed additional support for OBR. In 2015, OBR and Seaboard formalized a donation program in which Seaboard agreed to provide $25,000 worth of product for the year.
“We wouldn’t be able to serve the number of people that we do without the support of Seaboard and Prairie Fresh,” Peterson says. “We act as a family just going out and taking care of others. We’re all working together.”
Peterson goes on to say, “What Seaboard did for us at the time helped make OBR what it is today, as far as being a major player in the mass feeding area; I’m just very appreciative of everything they’ve done for us and with us. I can’t say enough good things about them. They’re part of our legacy at this point.”
In 2017, Seaboard Foods donated enough Prairie Fresh pork for approximately 376,000 meals. The total donation equaled about seven truckloads of pork. Seaboard will provide fresh pork as needed throughout the rest of 2018. The company has committed to donations similar to those made in 2017.
“Our expectations are that Prairie Fresh will be a long-term partner with Operation BBQ Relief,” Eaheart says. “It’s a natural fit with our business, products and employees. We can’t wait to see what’s next for OBR and its volunteers.”