Cooking Up Awareness
It all started with a small Facebook group of 20 combat veterans sharing their interest in barbeque and cooking. Before they knew it, this handful of rib enthusiasts had expanded into a burgeoning non-profit organization aimed at helping as many veterans as possible. Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ is a non-profit organization whose goal is to raise awareness for military veterans suffering from combat depression, PTSD, and isolation.
Isolation is something that many combat veterans suffer from, which also encompasses PTSD and combat depression. The cycle repeats as the isolation leads to further depression and depression leads to continued isolation. Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ was a Facebook group created by Garry Hodges to combat this isolation and give veterans a public forum to discuss and display their passion for BBQ. What began as a group of 20 friends slowly turned into over 1000 members. Garry realized this was the perfect opportunity to reach out to those in need and transformed the Facebook group into a non-profit organization.
Currently, the organization does charity events to raise money for veteran families, take on sponsorships for equipment, raffles, and events, and enters competitions to help members grow their skillset and open themselves up to conversations they usually wouldn’t have. Veterans suffering from depression and PTSD lack confidence in themselves. It’s a journey to rebuild themselves from scratch and if BBQ is the way to facilitate growth and build confidence, then this is the place to be.
While the group's goal is to raise awareness, the silent mission is to lend a helping hand to veterans that are suffering and pull them out of their isolation. One such inspiring story happened a few years ago. Garry was at home, unable to sleep from insomnia when he gets a call. He doesn’t know the caller personally but knows they’re a veteran. The man explained that a few months prior he had been sitting in his living room, preparing himself to drink the equivalent of three bottles of pills to end his life. He had written a note, prepared his will and everything.
He logged on to Facebook one last time and noticed a friend had tagged him in a group called Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ. He saw that there was a competition coming up and, seeing that it was open to all contenders, decided that he would enter for the heck of it. Why not, right? Well, he ended up winning the competition. For the first time, he made a post on Facebook to celebrate his success and saw an outpouring of support for him. Ultimately he ended up reconnecting with his ex-wife, made an effort to get back into his daughter’s life, and stabilized his life. All because Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ exists.
While it may have started out with humble beginnings, there was some trial and error in the process. As the organization was growing, they realized that they needed credibility to bring in more members and sponsors. They decided to enter a BBQ competition to help grow their name. Unfortunately, they got smoked and realized that the world of briskets and ribs was bigger than they had imagined. They steadily honed their craft and won first place in ribs by the third event.
Within the first year, they finished with three or four trophies, giving the organization the credibility and experience needed to start branching out. More people that wanted to help started joining alongside new cooks, organizations, and professionals pledging to step in and assist. Currently, Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ enters around 20 events each year and welcomes any volunteers that are interested.
While their ribs are prestigious, volunteers of all skill levels are welcome. You don’t have to know anything about cooking or BBQ, so long as you have a passion to help and the willingness to work on a team. The same can be said of donations. Anyone can donate, whether they be product donations for charities or financial donations to sponsor the teams or for charity events.
IntegriTel has decided to take the first step in helping this powerful organization achieve its goals and donated to its cause. Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ has impacted so many lives, we’d like to give back however we can. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating, their website has more information to direct you further. If you want to come out and meet the team, they are attending charity cookoffs and professional events around the year, so pop into the Facebook group to see when the next event starts. Thank you to every veteran for your service and if you’re looking for a place to rebuild and connect, look no further than Vets Rolling Smoke & BBQ.
Here, nobody cooks solo because veterans are never alone.
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