BBQ Support: Feeding Fellow Americans After Sandy

When Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard, three men from Chicago raised money for food and then drove to NYC to feed storm victims. NPR's Richard Gonzales sent an audio postcard from Howard Beach, N.Y.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Twelve days after Hurricane Sandy smacked the eastern seaboard and beyond, tens of thousands of people still lack basic necessities - food, water, even shelter. NPR's Richard Gonzales sent us this postcard about three men from Chicago who took it upon themselves to bring some comfort to Sandy's victims.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Twenty-eight-year-old Kris Schoenberger is flipping burgers and hot dogs on a large portable drill in Howard Beach, New York. It's a long way from its home in Chicago, where he owns a mobile catering company. Schoenberger says when he saw the first TV images of Sandy's ravages, he told his wife I'm leaving.

KRIS SCHOENBERGER: When 9/11 happened, I saw the nation come together, and slowly the nation has kind of seemed like they drifted apart again. And, you know, when something like this happens, we as a nation, we need to stick together. It's amazing how a hot dog can change somebody's life. It's pretty inspirational.

GONZALES: Schoenberger raised enough money on Facebook to buy 10,000 pounds of burgers and hot dogs. And then with two buddies - Chris Edwards and Tommy Collins - he drove a truck and grill here to Howard Beach, where for two days and two nights they fed all comers for free. Here's Collins:

TOMMY COLLINS: I mean, outside here cooking 10 hours straight just on the go constantly, you lose track of time. You don't even know what day it is. Get no sleep. Just trying to cook as many burgers as we can. As soon as we had a spot on that grill, another burger goes on.

GONZALES: Many people in this working-class neighborhood lost everything. You can see a lifetime's possession sitting waterlogged on the street curb waiting to be hauled away. Now, everybody lines ups, cold, exhausted but patient at Schoenberger's grill.

DONNA BARNETT: Delicious, absolutely delicious. Anything will taste good right now when you don't eat all day, right?

GONZALES: Haven't eaten all day?

BARNETT: No.

GONZALES: Donna Barnett and her brother Bobby have lived on this block on Howard Beach near the water since the 1960s. Bobby rode out the storm. Now, he points to a dead-end sign on his block to show where the water had crested.

BOBBY BARNETT: Waves over the top of it. Two-foot waves over the top of that. At that came up through the floors, everything. There ain't nothing you could do about it.

GONZALES: Barnett was happy to at least have a free and hot meal.

BARNETT: Ah, they're a blessing, you know. It's good to have people that, you know, come together in a neighborhood and help everybody out.

GONZALES: After two days, Kris Schoenberger and his buddies went back to Chicago with an empty truck. Before leaving, Schoenberger reflected on what he had accomplished here.

SCHOENBERGER: This is what our job is as a citizen of the United States is to look out for fellow Americans, and that was what we were all about.

GONZALES: Richard Gonzales, NPR News, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This is better than filet mignon.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: You ain't kidding.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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