The distressed will not go hungry: Operation BBQ Relief

Updated 4:48 PM ET, Sat December 9, 2017
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Top 10 CNN Hero for 2017 Stan Hays, the co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief, works to feed victims and first responders after disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. CNN caught up with Hays and his colleagues at an event in Kansas City, Kansas. Click through the gallery for more info and photos. David Scott Holloway/CNN
Operation BBQ Relief volunteers show up after hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires and other disasters. "It is people helping people the best way we know how," said Hays. David Scott Holloway/CNN
During the last six years, the group has responded to almost 45 disasters across the United States, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the wildfires in northern California. More than 6,800 volunteers have joined the effort, and the group often partners with other organizations to distribute the meals. David Scott Holloway/CNN
The goal is to be in an area 24-48 hours after disaster strikes. Since 2011, Operation BBQ Relief has prepared more than 1.75 million meals for survivors and first responders. David Scott Holloway/CNN
It all started when a tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, close to Hays' home. His wife urged him to help. So, the grand champion pitmaster put out the word to his barbecue buddies and headed down with his portable smoker. David Scott Holloway/CNN
The typical response from residents is gratitude. "You have no idea what a hot meal means to somebody who has lost everything that they own," said a woman during the Hurricane Harvey crisis. David Scott Holloway/CNN
Hays and his team scale their response to the size of the disaster. "You can go from a small disaster with 12 volunteers to a big one where you're running 100-150 volunteers a day." David Scott Holloway/CNN
What started as a hobby for Hays and turned into a passion has now become a mission to help people in a time of desperate need. "It's a very humbling experience to be down here with so many people and so much love and so many people who just want to help," Hays said during a deployment in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. "We're going to keep doing it as long as we can and as long as there's a need." David Scott Holloway/CNN