Kookers Kare started as an idea conceived by two Kansas City Barbeque Society cook teams in the fall of 1996.

Larry Marks, of BBQ team Three Little Pigs (Raytown, Mo), and Craig Kidwell, of team Boys of BBQ and Patty (Odessa, MO), learned that local food pantries frequently suffered shortages of food during the spring and summer of each year. They felt a need to help the underprivileged and homeless families served by the community out-reach programs. With this desire in mind, the first committee was formed. It consisted of Craig and Patty Kidwell, Larry and Joan Marks, and Bob (Armadillo Bob) and Margaret Nolop .

Eventually the budding committee went to several more teams asking if they would participate by cooking for the food pantries. Many of the barbecue cooking teams of the Kansas City Barbecue Society were excited to be getting out the smoker early in the year to do some cooking for the needy.

Next, the committee started soliciting help from local businesses and friends to provide meat and other necessary items to get a Kookers Kare Event started. The positive response from everyone was quite overwhelming. The committee chose the month of March of each year to conduct this charitable event; this being the time of year when the pantries suffered their greatest shortage. The first Kookers Kare event was set for March of 1997. Their location was Wyandotte County’s Fairgrounds in Kansas City, KS.

The committee worked hard all winter soliciting businesses and individuals. Everything from meat to plastic ware was needed. They gathered donations and commitments, not really knowing where to send or store the food. They contacted the City Union Mission to receive both the donations and the cooked meats for the first event, which was a major success. Meat, spices, marinades, BBQ sauces, charcoal and money were all being donated by many of the volunteers. Committee members even decided to feed dinner to the cooks and volunteers. Chili and hot dogs (with the fixings) rounded out the menu, with donuts and coffee being served for breakfast. The first year was frightfully cold and windy. Nevertheless the numerous and generous volunteers who prepared, cooked, and wrapped meat assured that the results would be amazingly successful. A combined 3000 lbs. of briskets, pork shoulders and turkey were all cooked by 26 cold, dedicated cookers, with the help of 75 volunteers. It was such a success that the committee decided to plan and organize an event for the following year with the thought in mind to out-do the first year’s event. They wanted it to be bigger and better in 1998. The committee had also decided through the learning process to make Harvesters Network the recipient for the finished product.

Harvesters Network is a part of the nationwide “Second Harvest Food Pantry”. Harvesters handles more than 1.2 million meals each month in the Kansas City metropolitan area for programs such as; Restart, the Salvation Army, Kansas City Community Kitchen, and others.
When Harvesters’ founders organized more than 20 years ago their efforts were in response to a disturbing social concern – hunger in our community. Their hope was to alleviate human suffering by providing emergency food assistance to people in need. With hope as their calling card, they were able to secure support from local businesses, churches, and individuals who realized they, too, could make a difference for people in need. Those early efforts were the seeds from which a mighty organization has grown. And while the need for food assistance continues to grow, so does the hope that one day solutions will be found (and implemented) which fully address the root causes of hunger in our community. In the meantime, the desire to help and the hope that we may make a difference is manifested in Kansas City’s community, young and old. Through countless ways the metro’s population has responded to the presence of hunger in our midst.

With all this in mind, the 1998 Kookers Kare event was as planned. The day of this event a local TV station presented the morning show from the cook-site, featuring interviews with cooks and committee members. The day after the event, Harvesters received calls from most of the area’s food kitchens requesting the barbeque.

There was a generous spirit, many fabled BBQ stories told, and lots of laughs to be had. The event’s reputation for fun and camaraderie spread, and became quite inviting to many new cookers and volunteers. After the second year event’s great turn-out the committee decided dinner-for-all would become part of this event. All agreed the second year’s event was, indeed, bigger and better then the first.

As the years have pasted, committee members have found special ways to make this event a “happening” in the barbeque society.

Today’s Kookers Kare Inc. committee consist of many Kansas City Barbecue Society members.

The committee members, cookers and volunteers continue to out do themselves every year making the event an enormous success!! Because of great sponsors, record amounts of cooked meat and dry goods are given to Harvesters each year. In addition, our fund raising efforts allow us to make a cash donation to Harvesters BackSnack program and a donation of Thanksgiving turkeys.

If you have any interest in supporting or donating to Kookers Kare – or just want more information please contact:

Gary Benham – President
EMAIL: [email protected]