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Posted on Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

1,000 meals in 24 hours: Dexter tornado relief gets a barbecue boost

By Danny Shaw


Tom Earl, a member of the newly established Michigan chapter of Operation BBQ Relief, checks the temperature of some pork. The organization barbecued more than 400 pounds of pork for Saturday evening.

Danny Shaw |

Read comprehensive coverage here.

Nearly 1,000 meals have been provided to the Dexter community within 24 hours, a culmination of efforts by local businesses and a nonprofit disaster relief group.

Tom Earl, one of the coordinators of Operation BBQ Relief, Michigan chapter, said he and dozens of volunteers have been cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers in front of LaFontaine Chevrolet for those affected by Thursday’s tornado.

“Feel free to come on up and grab something to eat,” said Earl, who also is a member of the Great Lakes BBQ Association. “We’re on track to provide over 1,000 meals within 24 hours. We’ve got folks from all over the state to help out here.”

The Michigan chapter of Operation BBQ Relief was established Friday morning, less than a day after the devastation caused by the EF3 tornado, said Earl, who is from Waterford. The nonprofit organization is based out of Missouri and has helped in other towns after tornado disasters.


Steve Fennelly (left), a member of the Michigan chapter of Operation BBQ, and Calleen Austin, the operations and logistics manager for the Salvation Army, help load a van with hot dogs that were cooked at the barbecue for families.

Danny Shaw |

They are operating in the LaFontaine Chevrolet parking lot until Sunday afternoon, then they will give any remaining food and supplies to the Salvation Army.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to help,” said Shad Bennett, general manager at the dealership. “We established the Dexter Relief Fund website, where people can go on and donate, or they can come on in to the dealership. We want to help fix Dexter however we can.”

As of 4:30 p.m. Saturday, LaFontaine Automotive Group had collected more than $4,200 in donations, according to the Dexter Relief Fund website.

Earl said he and his “barbeque enthusiast” colleagues jumped at the opportunity to help out after hearing about the damage from the tornado. They’re barbecuing more than 400 pounds of pulled pork for Saturday evening.

He said the Salvation Army has been picking up food almost hourly for various shelters and staging areas around the village. Earl said they have been receiving more donations than he can wrap his head around.

“It’s been amazing to see everyone pull together to help,” he said. “Gordon Food Service, Sam’s Club, Pepsi - they’ve all donated. Hundreds of people have donated. It’s been overwhelmingly great.”

Doug Busch, one of the owners of Busch’s Fresh Food Market, said the store has donated hundreds of pounds of food and has collected more than $10,000 in donations for the relief. The grocery chain also has been storing perishable food items for the tornado victims.

“That’s the way Dexter is,” Busch said. “It’s a tight-knit community. Everybody works together, everybody comes together.”

Dexter residents Kristyn Greenfield and Michelle Stamboulellis visited the barbecue Saturday afternoon to grab some hot dogs for their families. They have been contributing to the landscaping cleanup of their hometown.

Greenfield also is offering to help restore family photos that may have been damaged in the tornado through her business, KG Creative Photography.

“This is my little town, it’s so sad,” Greenfield said. “Dexter is very tight and close. It’s amazing to see people pull together like this.”

Dave Loesel, a manager at Busch’s Ann Arbor location, has been filling up and dropping off supplies as frequently as possible. Sometimes, he said, donations can be more than just money or supplies.

“I was walking through one of the neighborhoods yesterday that was hit,” Loesel said, “and I met a man that lost everything. About the only thing I could offer him was a big, open-armed hug. That’s what makes us human.”

For ways to donate to the tornado relief effort, click here.

Wylie Elementary School also is opening up its gym and pool from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday after a great turnout on Saturday, according to a message from Dexter Community Schools. The facilities are available for Dexter kids who want to play and swim. The showers again will be open from 8 to 11 a.m. for families who need a place to wash up, and personal products like shampoo and soap are available.

The schools are planning to hold classes on Monday, although that will be confirmed later on Sunday. Counseling resources will be available for students.

Contact reporter Danny Shaw at 734-623-2544 or


Danny Shaw

Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Operation BBQ Relief Facebook page reports 2,300 meals were served for the three-day operation.

Operation BBQ Relief

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

Hello Everyone. I can't tell you how much we loved being out helping the town of Dexter. So many grateful people and so much community. I'll be honest with all of you at times it was over wielming. As for JNS131, we are sorry that we didn't live up to your expectations. However, if you had come down to see us, you would have found that we didn't only have meat. We had hotdogs too. :D But honestly, we had a ton of food. Everything from fresh made pulled pork, hamburgers, hot dogs and breakfast burritos to chips, beans, donuts, muffins, and so much more. There are some additional folks that also need to be mentioned in this story that didn't get mentioned. A huge thanks to Red Brick Bar and Grill (Megan and Paul), Cottage Inn Pizza, Bush's, the Washtenaw County Sheriffs, the Dexter Fire Dept, the State Police and all the service restoration crews. Everyone was so unbelievably nice and orderly. It was a pleasure to serve you.


Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 2:45 a.m.

After 17 hours of volunteering and cutting trees, picking up debris, etc. over the last 2 days, seeing the food deliveries and cold beverages coming was such a relief! It always seemed to show up when I needed it the most. THANK YOU for all you guys did for my hometown!!!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

I so miss living in Dexter, the secret jewel of Washtenaw county. I'm kinda sad to see three giant trees go down in my old yard across from the Cider Mill, as well as the one at the Cider Mill. Yet that is mellowed by the fact that fortunately, no one was hurt. Living back in Ann Arbor has really underscored how nice of a community Dexter is...I'll be back!!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

I am indeed pleased to hear about BUSCH'S Fresh Food Market, and others giving their timely help and support to tornado victims in Dexter. I used to visit Dexter almost five days a week in the past and had also opportunity to personally meet several of Dexter residents. In recent years, I have not visited Dexter and yet they remain in my memory and I pray for their well-being and recovery from this natural calamity.


Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 2:41 a.m.

perhaps you should come visit us again sometime soon. We really are the best community anywhere and we enjoy the company of PLEASANT visitors!

KG Creative Photography

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Can you please fix the story about KG Creative Photography being a Dexter Business? We are based out of Belleville, Mi, not Dexter. However, I grew up in Dexter and my family is in Dexter and I wanted to help the community. Thank You.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

JNS131...Guess what? It's not about you.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Unfortunately Grateful, one can't tell a narcissist, they're a narcissist....they're way above that!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

@jns131, With no electricity and no gas a lot of homes have no way to cook. Where do you get the idea pork isn't a healthy meat? Great thanks to all the organizations giving a helpful hand.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

This what America is all about. Helping one another:)


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

This is a great idea. But there is a problem with this. What if the person is vegan? Doesn't eat certain meats? Gee, great to hear. But I hate to say it, pork is not a healthy meat and neither is diet pop. Did you just see the report? As for me? I'll do my own cooking thank you very much. At least I know where it comes from.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Again, vegans, animal rights folks (aka narcissists) thinking the universe revolves around them. I would say all four vegans in town can figure out where to eat.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 7:56 p.m. is a great time for you to start a disaster relief organization to help feed the vegans and meat specific people that are misplaced and unable to feed themselves by cooking on their own....vegans could probably just go into busches and get food to eat w/o prep, sold right off the shelves


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

There are several places providing food and restaurants are open in Dexter as are grocery stores. For people who are in a tough way, this is a nice gift. You must not be from Dexter. People here are polite when someone offers them something from their heart - we just say thank you, Vegan or not.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Well have fun cooking when you have no place to cook or even to lay you head! Why post such negative comments in a time when it's so great to see a community come together like they have!!!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Relief starts at home. It is unfortunate the the community has to go thru this difficult time. BUT, If you are vegan or can't eat certain meats, drive 8 miles and get something you can eat


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

Totally awesome -- folks helping folks. All will rebuild. God bless you all and thankfully no one was hurt.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

It's nice to do this for the victims of the tornado, but factory farming does contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions which in turn contribute to climate change.


Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 2:36 a.m., Wouldnt this fall into the violation category of "political views"???? RSA221, thanks for attempting to ruin a great thing people are doing to help MY community. As indicated by the voting here, I'd say we'll all just ignore you now!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

I'm with Veracity here!!! What does farming ave to do with the wonderful relief efforts of a great village and surrounding areas!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

With as many people and organizations donating meals and snacks/water to the victims, volunteer workers, and utility crews, this is extremely negative at a time when so much positive is occurring.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

What has that got to do with any of this? Frankly I'd put this one in the "comment violated" box.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 7:50 a.m.

And your point is?


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

Way to step up to the plate OBR!!!!!!

Ann English

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:25 a.m.

Danny, Which Busch's Ann Arbor location is Dave Loesel a manager of? Plymouth & Green or Main Street? I do remember reading that all 15 Busch's stores are helping out.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

There is a Busch's store in Dexter, literally feet from one of the damaged neighborhoods. It sits right next to LaFontaine Chevy on Dexter-Ann Arbor Road.


Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

What a great idea!!!.. The schools opening for water and showers.. Many people do not realize that most of Dexter use wells. They need electricity to pump the water .. so they can't even flush toilets. I think the Operation BBQ is wonderful!!..