Extending a hand: St. George family goes mobile to cook, serve meals to hurricane victims

Many volunteers, including John and Laurie Clayton from St. George, cook and serve meals in the Houston area to Hurricane Harvey victims, Kountze, Texas, date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Clayton, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A St. George family has taken their restaurant’s mobile kitchen to southeast Texas to volunteer preparing and serving meals to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Volunteers, including Laurie Clayton (pictured in black) from St. George, cook and serve meals in the Houston area to Hurricane Harvey victims, Kountze, Texas, date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Clayton, St. George News

John Clayton, along with his wife, Laurie, and their 13-year-old daughter Emma, left Utah Sept. 1 and arrived in the Houston area two days later. Although they live in St. George, John and Laurie Clayton have owned and operated the Sunset Grill restaurant in Moab for 24 years.

After collecting more than $27,000 in cash donations and another $5,000 worth of food and other products, the Claytons packed their trailers and left from Moab.

John Clayton said they didn’t know exactly where they were going, but he knew they’d end up somewhere they’d be needed.

Many additional donations have been brought or sent in since then, including from people in the areas hit hardest by the hurricane.

In the small town of Kountze, Texas, about 100 miles east and slightly north of Houston, the Claytons have been busy working from their fully equipped kitchen trailer, along with a large military tent set up in the parking lot of the Gateway Church.

The location has become a gathering spot for residents still struggling to clean up after the massive flooding caused by Harvey, a devastating Category 4 hurricane that dumped more than 40 inches of rain on parts of the Texas Gulf Coast in late August.

People are coming from everywhere to this town,” John Clayton said. “Many people from a town a mile or two away have been flooded out. One man’s house is 52 feet above sea level … He had a foot of water in his house, and his neighbors surrounding him were flooded to their rooftops.”

Clayton said numerous other volunteers from around the country have been pitching in to help them prepare and serve the food, then helping clean up and get things ready for the next meal.

Many volunteers, including John and Laurie Clayton from St. George, cook and serve meals in the Houston area to Hurricane Harvey victims, Kountz, Texas, date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Clayton, St. George News

Clayton posted on the Sunset Grill Facebook page that they had served 180 breakfasts, 422 lunches and more than 460 dinners on Labor Day, their first full day of operation.

“The word is out. The Utah chow wagon is up and running.”

Clayton said they proceeded to serve more than 3,300 meals over the first three days.

Although they had originally planned to be in Texas for as long as 10 days, Clayton said, they may wrap things up there by Saturday and turn their attention to Florida, where the even larger Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, is expected to make landfall over the next few days.

Clayton said even if he and his family aren’t able to work out the logistics and make it to Florida this weekend, they will see that their extra donations of food and supplies are sent there.

Although the Claytons have provided thousands of meals to wildfire crews over the past several years, this is their first time providing hurricane relief.

“I have worked on 17 separate wildfires, some as long as 16 days. After two days of all this work, I am totally worn out. I’ve never been in this much pain from working,” Clayton said.

L-R: Emma Clayton, Laurie Clayton and John Clayton pose in front of their restaurant’s mobile kitchen. The Claytons have been serving meals in Texas this week to Hurricane Harvey victims, Kountze, Texas, date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Clayton, St. George News

“But it has been such an incredible experience, to come here on this working vacation, and be able to help these people out.”

Clayton said even though they may leave early Saturday, he hopes to be in attendance Friday night when the high school from the nearby town of Lumberton is scheduled host the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns in their season-opening football game. Clayton said townspeople have been working feverishly to get the soggy field ready for the game, which he hopes will help the residents of those communities return to a sense of normalcy.

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Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • comments September 8, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    So they’re a st. geoge family but run the food truck in moab? That’s actually a lot of cash. I kind of suspect they paid themselves for their time, so I don’t know that they could be considered volunteers, but it’d be interesting to know.

    • comments September 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      ok the first question is clear

    • John September 13, 2017 at 12:34 am

      We are not being paid , 100% of all money collected goes to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. We also made a sizable contribution.

      We own the Sunset Grill restaurant, located in Moab. Along with that we have a mobile kitchen that is mainly used during wildfire season . It was sitting idle last week when we decided to take it to Texas .

      During our time in Lumbertown Texas we served over 5,300 meals. Made over $3,100 cash donations to flood victims who have temporarily lost employment .

      The hurricane victims still can use help . The cleanup phase is going to take months . If anyone wants to go help in “mucking” out & rebuilding houses , I can guarantee you will develop life long friendships. Contact me at 435 260 1801 , John Clayton

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