It seems like every time you turn around there is some sort of disaster striking. Tornados, Earthquakes, fires and hurricanes destroy the world as we know it and change the lives of thousands when they strike.
As a person who enjoys being able to lend a helping hand - I always wonder what it is I can do to help. I have always had the willingness to help as well as the time. Each time a disaster strikes I wish I had the capital to help rebuild, the connections to make it go more smoothly or the magic to make it never have happened.
After hurricane Sandy, I just stared at the pictures and read the reports. I was astonished by the destruction. I was blown away by the amount of sand left in places it didn't belong. I was astounded by the sights of the tall building swaying. However, I was at a loss for how to be of service.
It is amazing how things work out. Sunday afternoon November 4, I received a text message from my boss, Roy Lee Lindsey, asking me to give him a call when I had a free moment. When I did return the call he asked if I would be interested in joining the delegation of pork industry folks heading to the New York/New Jersey area to support those who had been affected by the hurricane.
Without thinking twice or asking a single question I replied with a resounding yes. He laughed and said he thought so - but just wanted to double check before volunteering me.
Fast forward through the next four days and I was boarding a plane, to fly to a place I had never been, to meet people I had never met. When I arrived in Philadelphia, I met with the rest of the crew who had flown in to work the weekend shift. They had all been waiting on me to arrive, and now that I had done so we were on the move.
Quickly I was introduced to everyone - Rosemary and Leonard Moeller from South Dakota, James Luckman from New York and Sam Moffitt from Indiana. Each person was full of excitement to start getting to work and helping to feed the people of Brick, New Jersey.
Brick is a township in located in Ocean County and has been among America's safest cities for many years. Most of Brick Township is located on the mainland but three beaches Beaches I, II can be found on the Barnegat Peninsula, a long, narrow barrier peninsula that separates Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Police Athletic League building in Brick had been converted into a central hub for supporting the victims of the storm. With thousands of people unable to even get to their houses - there was a lot of different things people needed.
In the parking lot people parked trailers and cookers and supplied food for the building - so people could get a hot meal. Also, collections were being taken for clothes, coats, medicine, toiletries, etc. and were then redistributed. Orders could also be taken for large groups needing meals and then could be picked up or delivered.
Driving from the Philadelphia airport to Brick took somewhere near three hours and when we arrived there - the cooking for the day was mostly finished. We met with more people from the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council who made it to Brick before we did. Together everyone cleaned up and got the We Care trailer and grills ready for the next day.
The next day started early with the cooking beginning before 8 a.m. Hundreds of sandwiches were expected to be ready for the first responders out working near the coastline. Whole pork loins also went onto the grill to be cut and put either on the line inside the Police Athletic League or supplied to orders as they came rolled in to us.
Cooking began early and most of the day was spent in front of the hot grills or wrapping up sandwiches to be served as needed, cutting meat or simply trying to answer any questions you could.
The people of Brick were wonderfully nice and extremely excited to have the representatives from the pork industry there for help. People stopped and would talk with the farmers and ask about how far they traveled and why.
The next day followed much the same pattern - cooking, packaging, cleaning up and working with anyone we could help.
Monday morning - I flew back to Oklahoma. It has been a few weeks and I have had plenty of time to think about the very few days I was able to spend and what impressions it left me with - both as a person and as a member of the pork industry.
I did not go to New Jersey so I could write a story telling you how amazing I am or how much I care for the world around me. I went because there was an opportunity to help people. I went because I had the ability to go and I had the time to share. I went because it is what you do when you are able to help - you get out there and do it.
I learned, once again, about people from different areas. I learned it doesn't matter where you are from, when disaster strikes - while food may not solve all your problems - it often makes it easier to deal with your other problems.
As a representative of the pork industry I was proud that we jumped at the opportunity to do something to help our neighbors on a national scale. People were happy to see farmers and good food and were excited to learn more about what the farmers did each day, even if it was only to forget momentarily how hard things were going to continue to be in the months ahead.
As an industry - we reached out a hand to the people of New Jersey and they were happy to have it. There may have been boats in places where none were supposed to be, there may be mountains of sand everywhere, their homes may not have been safe to step into - but for a while they had wholesome, delicious food and a new friend.
As a person - I am proud of what we did as an industry. I am proud to be a part of our community.