Monday, May 9, 2011

Tornado Relief: You Were There

Thank you. Yes YOU. Because if you are reading this blog, chances are you are a supporter of Jim ‘N Nick’s bar-b-q and it is only through your support that we have the resources to be a part of stories like this. All that follows is a direct result of YOU...

We often joke that if our Bar-B-Q rig could talk, that’d be okay, because no one would believe the stories it would tell anyway. While funny in lighter times of high celebration, the stories told this past week are ones of sadness, destruction, loss but also of hope and a coming together as people comforting people. Our Bar-B-Q rigs and the folks manning them saw all of this and more as we traveled from Tuscaloosa to Fultondale to Pleasant Grove to Jasper pouring forth as much free food as we could make in an attempt to do something, anything, to help those affected by the tornadoes in Alabama.

The night the tornadoes hit, well before the light of day had revealed the true horror, Nick sent an e-mail to a group of Jim ‘N Nick’s people saying “we need to be ready to provide some relief to people, let’s meet at 5 points first thing in the morning.” At that point the official death toll was 4.

After a swirl of conversation we decided that our most effective means of support would be to help take care of those who are taking care of others. Our initial focus became feeding search and rescue as well as police and fire departments. We set up places for them to get a warm meal and a chance to sit for a minute before re-engaging in the disaster. The scheduled shifts for these men and women were technically from 6 to 6, but what we discovered was that all of them were pushing themselves well past this suggested 12 hour day. Many were on their 30th consecutive hour when they finally stopped for a break. A warm pork sandwich and some potato salad may not seem like much, but for all of YOU who made this possible, please know that it was truly appreciated.

YOU also delivered food to shelters and on-site, directly to families searching through the debris of their destroyed homes, in total we estimate about 5-6,000 meals over 4 days. Getting food directly to the people who were sorting through the rubble of their homes proved difficult, but ultimately, important work. As you might imagine, the rescue workers were trying to keep non-essential vehicles out of the most devastated areas, but the solution found us by way of a pair of volunteer fire fighters – Daniel, Willie and a 1983 ford ambulance, Old number 72. This ambulance may well be the best example of the Mt. Olive Fire Department resuscitative skills. In the course of her service, she caught on fire three times, her transmission had to be replaced after the first night out and on my journey with them through Alberta City (a neighborhood of Tuscaloosa) she had to be jumped off three times. But they kept her running. The night of the storm Daniel and Willie were first responders and were pulling the dead and injured out of the rubble. In later days they were replaced by EMA teams from around the nation, but fueled by adrenaline and cafeine they stayed at it and spent their days delivering Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, in the ambulance, to the survivors in these neighborhoods that had returned to salvage what they could from the rubble. Together we formed a rag-tag meals-on-wheels team. If you are thinking about making a donation to a volunteer fire department, quit thinking and just do it.

Additional thanks to Kat Kinsman and Eatocracy of CNN, Birmingham’s strong association of bloggers and local broadcast media for getting the word out to emergency workers and making our locations known to the people that needed the aid. Thanks also to Golden Flake Potato Chips and Coca-Cola for their donation of chips and water to the cause. And thanks to the Mt. Olive and Coaling volunteer fire departments for the efforts of Daniel, Willie and Old no. 72.

Here are some ways you can help remotely:

American Red Cross 
U.S. mobile phone users can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 automatically through your phone bill. Or call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit

Salvation Army 
Text GIVE to 80888 to donate $10 through your phone bill. Or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or visit and designate “Tornado Relief.”

Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund 
Visit or call 1-888-421-1266.

West Alabama Food Bank 
Text FOOD to 27722 to donate $10, or visit

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