First Responders

BRCC Donates Coffee to Towns Ravaged by Train Wreck and Historic Storms

March 15, 2023Jenna Biter
Ohio train derailment

A photo taken by a drone shows portions of a freight train that derailed Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, were still on fire the following day. AP photo by Gene J. Puskar, File.

Black Rifle Coffee Company is donating Ready to Drink coffee to two disaster-stricken communities in America’s heartland. BRCC is planning to ship a total of 18,408 cans of coffee to East Palestine, Ohio, and central Oklahoma by Friday.

Victor Perez, BRCC’s corporate charitable giving manager, told Coffee or Die that sending free coffee to both communities was a “no brainer.” (BRCC owns Coffee or Die.) “For us to be able to pick up a little bit of slack like that,” Perez said, “I mean, that’s pretty cool.”

Last month, two major disasters upended the lives of thousands of Americans in the middle of the United States. Residents of East Palestine have been reeling since Feb. 3, when a freight train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in the town and caught fire. The blaze inundated East Palestine with noxious smoke, raising fears of dangerous contamination and long-term health problems. Three weeks later, a rare late-February storm system unleashed hurricane-strength winds, golf-ball-sized hail, and a string of tornadoes that tore through Oklahoma and injured at least a dozen people. Both communities are still recovering, and likely will be for a long time.

BRCC donations

A BRCC truck makes a delivery. Black Rifle Coffee Company photo.

Keith Drabick, East Palestine’s fire chief, told Coffee or Die that the Ohio town of roughly 5,000 is still trying to get back to normal more than a month after the train wreck. The fact that railroad company Norfolk Southern, as well as local, state, and federal authorities, are still working to clean up the toxic wreckage only makes it more difficult to move beyond the tragedy.

“Obviously, there’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Drabick said. “People are scared and nervous.”

If there is a silver lining, Drabick said, it’s the outpouring of support that East Palestine has received from across the country. “There are so many different entities sending stuff — food, water, all kinds of beverages, and financial support,” he told Coffee or Die. “It means everything. It shows that people care about the area, care about what’s going on, and truly want to help the best that they can.”

Ohio train derailment

A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of the controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern train, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Gene J. Puskar.

More than 9,000 cans of Ready to Drink coffee are scheduled to leave a BRCC facility in Tennessee for East Palestine on Friday.

Meanwhile, residents of the greater Oklahoma City area have been busy rebuilding their neighborhoods, businesses, and local infrastructure. In the aftermath of the historic winter storms, local news stations captured footage showing flipped cars and roofless houses in Norman, a city just 20 miles south of the capital. 

Chris Oldham, the director of operations for a pair of BRCC franchises in central Oklahoma, told Coffee or Die that local first responders worked long shifts because of the disaster. But with the aid of the Oklahoma First Responder Wellness Division, the local BRCC franchises were able to help keep everybody awake. On day one, Oldham said, he was already delivering free Ready to Drink coffee to police stations, firehouses, and checkpoints.

BRCC donations

Residents assess damage in Norman, Oklahoma, on Feb. 27, 2023, after severe storms and tornadoes moved through the state overnight. AP photo by Alonzo Adams.

“The Wellness Division supported us and drove us around in a trooper’s unit to be able to get into spots we couldn’t get into initially to serve first responders,” Oldham said, “I had a full heart at the end of the day because we were able to genuinely show love and appreciation to people who were in a tense, stressful situation.”

The 9,000-plus cans bound for Oklahoma, which are slated to ship the same day as those headed to East Palestine, will replenish the product that the local franchises have already handed out. 

“But it’ll just get donated again,” Oldham quipped.

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Jenna Biter
Jenna Biter

Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.

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