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BBQ pitmasters serve hot meals in Lindenhurst
Janet Newman and her 90-year-old mother evacuated their home before superstorm Sandy hit, and returned to find 4 feet of water on the first floor and their cars partially underwater.
“It’s very emotional for my mother,” said Newman, 64, of Lindenhurst. “We’ve had to gut her house, which was built by my father 65 years ago.”
Newman and her mother, Babette Smith, were among the hundreds to sift through bags of donated clothing, blankets and supplies, and stand in line for a hot meal outside Wellwood Grille in Lindenhurst on Saturday.
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“We are so blessed that people have come to our aid,” Newman said with tears rolling down her face. “We can’t even remember what it was like before this happened. It’s strange not having a home.”
Operation BBQ Relief, a Kansas City-based nonprofit founded after the 2011 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., has served nearly 102,000 meals in New York and New Jersey since superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast.
Phil Rizzardi, founder of Long Island’s competition BBQ Brethren and member of OBR, said the barbecue teams cooked thousands of meals for residents in Babylon on Nov. 3 and 4 and Long Beach on Nov. 10 and 11.
“We’re cooking over a ton of food,” said Rizzardi, 53, of Nesconset. “I’ve seen some of the devastation and we can’t do much, but we can cook. We’re just coming out to do what we do best.”
On Saturday, the nonprofit enlisted six teams of competitive barbecue pitmasters from across Long Island to serve hot meals in Lindenhurst -- including reality TV star Derrick Prince. The 35-year-old West Babylon native volunteered the skills he learned from competing in season 2 of FOX’s MasterChef to make potato soup.
“I helped the BBQ Brethren cook in Long Beach last weekend and a little in Babylon,” Prince said. “As long as I’m cooking, I’m good.”
The barbecue teams partnered with a local community group, Camp Bulldog, which organized for the sole purpose of feeding and providing for Lindenhurst residents affected by the storm.
Shannon Ford, a volunteer with Camp Bulldog, said there were at least 100 volunteers serving turkey, hot dogs, hamburgers, squash, cranberry sauce, desserts and other sides.
“Every day, there’s a new group of volunteers serving hot food,” said Ford, 33, of Lindenhurst. “And as soon as we think we ran out of food someone brings another tray filled with food.”
Holding two plates of food in her hands, Debra DiFrisco explained that her home has been declared condemned, after the first floor was flooded and the foundation cracked.
“It’s amazing to see everyone here,” said DiFrisco, 41, of Lindenhurst. “I thank every volunteer that I see and I just don’t know what we would’ve done without these meals and these donations.”
Ford said Camp Bulldog will continue to coordinate with local businesses and residents and show up each day to provide hot meals and household items in the same location.
“My whole outlook on people has changed,” Ford said. “I have seen nothing less, but residents helping out their neighbors and doing the very best they can.”