Using a traveling grill from the Western Illinois Pork Producers, Bob Oitker and Rich Myers (right) grill pork chops to serve to volunteers at the Valley City levee in rural Perry. Oitker of the Maschhoffs and Myers, manager of Lynch Livestock in Griggsville, grilled some 500 pork chops for sandwiches over the course of two days. Grilled pork chop sandwiches were served by volunteers who traveled up and down the levee to serve those filling and placing sandbags as they worked.
Using a traveling grill from the Western Illinois Pork Producers, Bob Oitker and Rich Myers (right) grill pork chops to serve to volunteers at the Valley City levee in rural Perry. Oitker of the Maschhoffs and Myers, manager of Lynch Livestock in Griggsville, grilled some 500 pork chops for sandwiches over the course of two days. Grilled pork chop sandwiches were served by volunteers who traveled up and down the levee to serve those filling and placing sandbags as they worked.

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,” Oitker said.

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 company.

“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.