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World's largest grill soothes Sandy sufferers in Westbury

Eddie Chavez, of Freeport, enjoys free bratwurst from

Eddie Chavez, of Freeport, enjoys free bratwurst from the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill with his daughters Ideth, 3, and Giovanna, 5. (Nov. 11, 2012) (Credit: Erin Geismar)

Valley Stream’s Maryrose Cerami and Massapequa’s Cynthia DeSilvio have been working mandatory 12-hour shifts, seven days a week at their Verizon office in Westbury, trying to restore its network infrastructure. They barely break for lunch.

That’s why the women were so excited Sunday to find that within walking distance of their office, the world’s largest grill was fired up and handing out free bratwurst.

The Big Taste Grill -- a mobile unit built into the back of a 65-foot-long semitrailer operated by Johnsonville foods -- ended a weeklong tour of areas affected by superstorm Sandy with its stop at the Westbury Walmart, where grillmaster Karl Behrens had served up more than 1,000 “brats” within the first two hours. He expected to serve about 3,000 that day and wasn’t shy to yell out “Free food!” to customers walking through the parking lot.

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The Sandy tour was organized in collaboration with Wal-Mart, which arranged for the grill to park at its stores in five locations and donated drinks and buns to complete the meal.

Johnsonville was also collecting donations to be given to a charity related to Sandy recovery, Behrens said. The company had raised more than $3,000 on the tour before its last stop in Westbury.

“We’re here to give to those that have lost,” Behrens said, adding that the free lunch is also a service for those on the other side of tragedy -- the first responders, the volunteers, the utility workers coming from other states to lend a hand. “If a sausage puts a smile on your face, then that’s what we’re here to do.”

Dave Kutner, 44, of Franklin Square, is an emergency medical technician and paramedic who said life recently has consisted of “hard days and hard nights.”

He and his wife, Linda, and their four children were enjoying their bratwurst on Sunday before doing some shopping.

Kutner said his family lost power for seven days, which made life difficult, especially with four kids. He dropped some cash into the collection jar before moving his family over to the condiment table.

“This is a really good idea,” he said. “Anything that anyone can do to help.”

Cerami said it was heartwarming to see people donating money and to walk into such a grand gesture to help those in need.

“The fact that everyone is in this together,” she said, “that makes it so much better.”

Above: Eddie Chavez, of Freeport, enjoys free bratwurst from the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill with his daughters Ideth, 3, and Giovanna, 5. (Nov. 11, 2012)

Tags: Westbury , Walmart , Johnsonville , brats , Sandy , free , food

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