VALLEY CITY, Ill. — It was a beautiful day to grill out, and
Bob Oitker and Rich Myers were doing just that.
The grill was set up, and pork chops sizzled as the two
experienced grill masters expertly seasoned the thick chops with barbecue
seasoning and cooked them to juicy perfection.
But instead of the chops being consumed with potato salad
and a few chilled adult beverages, the perfectly-cooked pork was put onto buns
and wrapped in foil, and the sandwiches then were placed inside coolers. From
there, the coolers full of pork went onto the back of Gators.
Oitker and Myers and their grilling skills were part of the
volunteer effort to nourish a legion of volunteers battling the rising Illinois
River at the Valley City levee near Perry and Griggsville in Pike County.
“They seemed to enjoy them,” Oitker said as the second day
of cooking commenced.
The traveling grill and trailer from Western Illinois Pork
Producers was set up at the Danny Myers farm, within sight of the levee that was
holding back the flooding Illinois River.
“We started cooking at 9 a.m., and we’ll be done by noon,”
They were into their second day of grilling. The volunteer
cookout would serve some 500 grilled pork chops, accompanied by bags of chips,
fruit, snack cakes, water and sports drinks.
The food was delivered to the volunteers sandbagging and
working on the levee itself and a crew working to restore a pump station to full
operation. Sharon Wiese of rural Perry and Tracy Lawson of rural Chambersburg
delivered the food via Gator.
The hot sandwiches were welcomed by the volunteers, which
included work crews from the Illinois Department of Corrections work camps at
Pittsfield and Clayton.
“Hot dog! Pork chops!” one volunteer exclaimed as Lawson and
Wiese announced the menu.
Oitker is employed by the Maschhoffs, a fifth-generation,
family-owned livestock operation that is the third largest pork producer in the
U.S. The farm has a feed mill in Griggsville and is headquartered in Carlyle.
Myers is the manager of the Griggsville location of Lynch
Livestock, based in Waucoma, Iowa, a pork production, purchasing and marketing
“Both of our employers support agriculture and are
agribusinesses, so they allow us to come down here and volunteer, supply a
pickup truck to pull the trailer — they’re very supportive,” Oitker said.
He said lending their grilling expertise to feed the hungry
volunteers was a natural fit.
“These guys down here are farmers or they’re involved in
agribusiness. They’re people we buy grain from or that we have other connections
with, so it’s good to be able to come down and help them out,” he said.
The Illinois Pork Producers Association through the Western
Illinois Pork Producers supplied the pork chops.
With sandbagging efforts moving to a close as levee
operations moved into monitoring mode, April 25 would be the last day cooking
for the Valley City volunteers.
But it would not be the last day of cooking for volunteers
in the Illinois River flood fight and cleanup and recovery operations. On April
29, volunteers traveled with the trailer to London Mills to grill chops for
volunteers working on cleanup and recovery in that flood-ravaged community.