Alan Nichols: OBR Superstar and Great Humanitarian
I’ve been privileged to meet many great people in my life. One, in particular, breaks the mold as both a decent human being, Vietnam Veteran, retired USPS (postal service) employee and super volunteer. He is not only a family friend of my whole life but also a distant relative of mine. Allow me to introduce you to Alan Nichols, an OBR (Operation BBQ Relief) Superstar and great humanitarian who has devoted hours, weeks, and even months to giving back to his community, state, country, and fellow man.
Harry Alan Nichols
Harry “Alan” Nichols was born and raised in Sylvester, West Virginia, by his former military veteran parents, younger brother, and sister. Alan graduated from Sherman High School and was great friends with my mother, a neighbor, and a classmate.
During the Vietnam War, Alan was first offensive on the Cambodia border. He was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Five Air Medals, and Army Commendation for Heroism as a result of the Vietnam War.
I remember Alan owning a flower shop in Whitesville, a town close to where my family was from. He made beautiful arrangements and had an excellent reputation in town. He became a master florist, and was one of the first and only in the country at the time. After selling the flower shop, Alan worked and retired from the United States Postal Service and Volunteer Fire Department.
Alan met his lovely wife Linda while they were both working for the USPS, and the two were married in Christiansburg, Virginia. Linda is also a volunteer and longarm quilter, one of the best in her field. She donates many of her quilts to charities and Quilts of Valor to war veterans.
Retirement, A Different Meaning
Residing in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, mid state between mountains and coast, Alan Nichols didn’t let retirement slow him down. Instead, he dove headfirst into the world of barbecue, training, teaching, becoming a Master Judge for KCBS (Kansas City BBQ Society), and a Pitmaster for NCBBQS (North Carolina Barbecue Society). Alan’s responsibilities and competitions took him from Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and even the Dominica Republic.
Alan enjoyed the change of scenery, the camaraderie of the organizations, and eating the delicious food prepared before him. That set the stage for his bigger lot in life and becoming part of the OBR (Operation Barbecue Relief) community. And if that wasn’t enough, Alan is a Red Cross (Volunteer of the year 2010 in the Northwestern NC area) and Lion’s Club volunteer.
Alan claims that volunteering at the Warrior Games, where disabled veterans worldwide have their version of the Olympics, was one of his greatest moments. His voice cracked a little describing the wheelchair rugby games and archery done with the teeth of those with missing limbs. It gave me chills.
OBR Superstar: Operation Barbecue Relief
Barbecuing came naturally for Alan Nichols. His grandpa slaughtered pigs all his life, so Alan grew up knowing how to do that and cook them. He has cooked throughout his whole life. He came into #WeareOBR when a friend encouraged him to his first OBR deployment for ten days to Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence.
OBR is a private 503C non-profit that began as a natural disaster relief project in 2011 when tornadoes touched down and flattened Joplin, Missouri. They work with FEMA and state Emergency Management Agencies, but we are not part of them. When volunteers need to fly to disaster locations, Air Lyft helps to secure discounted flights. They check with OBR and then find flights for volunteers to get them into disaster areas where they will cook for the volunteers.
Missions he has worked include Fort Lauderdale (for Bahamas disaster), where he placed the 80,000th meal on the plane for delivery, Wilmington, and Tallahassee. Aid was in both Panama City and Tallahassee during Hurricane Michael, but Alan was in Tallahassee, the second area of destruction. OBR prepared 700,000 meals for that one volunteer job alone. Over one million were made (and served) in the year’s time.
Alan’s job is usually Pitmaster for the protein section. Another volunteer coordinator handles side dishes.
Alan Nichols was inducted into the North Carolina BBQ Hall of Fame (society wall) and was named Operation Barbecue Relief’s Volunteer of the Year (nominated and selected by his peers).
A Tip and Recipe from an Expert
I asked Alan to offer a tip for our readers, something that can be made at home for even the most novice cook. What he provided was a recipe for your crock-pot or slow cooker, that will give you the flavor of smoked meat, without the pricy equipment. The recipe calls for apple cider vinegar, pork butt, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt. How simple is that? The recipe is listed below.
Alan Nichols, A Man Worth Celebrating
Alan Nichols has devoted countless hours and lived through horrific natural disaster scenes to help give back to his fellow man. When asked what he hopes to be remembered for someday, he offered, “I hope that people will treat people the way they want to be treated”.
This man truly walks the walk and talks the talk, allowing his service to his fellow man to speak loads for his character. To add even more prestige to this remarkable man, Alan did two stints of volunteering in Florida, including a fourteen day stint in Tallahassee after Hurricane Michael and Giving Project, where OBR fed 7,000 homeless in Tampa.
Oh, and did I mention that during much of Alan’s volunteer gigs, he was undergoing radiation treatments for cancer-related to Agent Orange? This is what a true hero looks like.
I asked Alan what he hoped to accomplish for the rest of his life. His answer was to finish his USA bucket list and see Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota. I hope and pray he gets his wish. What a blessing it is to call this man, my friend.
Read about the state of North Carolina: