South Florida parishioners, volunteers cook BBQ meals for displaced Hurricane Dorian survivors

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida parishioners are cooking barbecue meals for the displaced survivors of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

Volunteers with Operation BBQ Relief could be seen cooking meals inside smokers at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Friday.

Laurie Polak, a volunteer who lives in Chicago, said she plans to spend the next 30 days at the airport working for the operation.

“Barbecue is comfort food, and a hot meal. It nourishes the body,” Polak said. “It nourishes the soul, and when you’re exhausted, you’ve lost everything, sometimes you need to sit down and have a hot meal.”

7News cameras captured volunteers offloading pasta from the back of a semi-truck trailer. The volunteers said they try to cook different meals for the people of the Bahamas because they “like to change things up.”

“Today, it was pulled pork and red beans and rice,” Polak said. “I personally love this. I’m out of Chicago, and so I travel around whenever there’s a need and I can get off work.”

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Pastor Rob Pacienza is also helping out and getting his church on board and involved in the operation.

“We will prepare 20,000 meals every single day for the next 30 days right here at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport,” Pacienza said. “Once this flight lands in Freeport, we will have four churches ready to meet the plane, and the churches will serve as main distribution centers for the entire island.”

The operation has set up a makeshift kitchen at an empty lot at the airport.

“We’ve been to 26 different states, over 60 communities,” volunteer Dewayne Daniel said. “Right now, we’re sitting at 2,964,000 meals, and we will cross that three million threshold on this deployment.”

The volunteers prepare, cook and package the meals. They go out twice a day and are flown to the Bahamas.

“We’re a volunteer-based organization, and it is a labor of love,” Daniel said. “It’s one of those things that once you get involved and you get into what we call your ‘why,’ you can’t wait to go help someone else.”

If you would like to volunteer, you can come out and help from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in two-hour increments.

The volunteers said the operation’s motto is “Connect, Serve and Inspire.”

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