After three weeks that included preparing 33,761 free meals while partnering with Operation BBQ Relief, Todd Johns received an unusual request from the staff at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence.

“I got a call, and they asked to come up and meet with their CEO, Bret Kolman, for a 15-minute meeting,” said Todd Johns, the owner of Plowboys Barbeque in Blue Springs.

“I’m thinking, why would he want to talk to me for 15 minutes? What can you really accomplish in 15 minutes?”

But he agreed, arrived at Centerpoint 15 minutes early, sat in his car and texted a few clients and members of his barbecue team, and entered the hospital.

“I got there so early, none of the surprise had been set up,” Johns said, “but when I saw my partner, Todd Johnson, and my wife Audrey, I knew something was up.”

More than 100 hospital personnel soon lined the hospital’s circular driveway with thank you signs, while others stood on the rooftop, shouting the praises of Johns and his staff.

One sign even proclaimed, “Todd Johns For President,” and Kolman was on hand to present Johns a few special gifts, including a One Hundred Grand candy bar.

“That was to signify the 100,000 thanks we wanted to give Todd and the amazing staff at Plowboys for what they have done over the past three weeks and,” Kolman said, “the past few years, because Plowboys has always been a special part of Centerpoint – from the meals he has delivered to our NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to the meals he has donated to families over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

The tribute caught Johns off guard.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “… I’m not a guy who likes to stand in front of a camera or receive a tribute like this, but it was just so amazing. And it was amazing to have Audrey there to share it with me.”

Kolman was thrilled to honor Johns and his staff.

“Todd lives in this community, he gives back to this community, he serves this community and he loves this community and that is what makes him so very special,” Kolman said.

Johns said the three-week Operation BBQ Relief drive, in which any family or business in need of a free meal could receive a barbecue meal from Johns’ Overland Park, Kan., location (which has been closed due to the COVID-19 quarantine) has come to an end.

“But it has only come to an end in Missouri,” Johns said. “We were a pilot program – a very successful pilot program – and they are now going to California, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Texas and do the same thing.”

“To be honest with you, I went into it a bit overconfident – not really knowing what to expect – but we got it down and really starting clicking a week or two into it, and I am so proud of our employees and what we were able to accomplish - 33,761 free meals to people who really needed them, like the staff here at Centerpoint.”

“We did make some deliveries, like to Centerpoint, and you could feel the buzz when our Plowboys van pulled up to the hospital. That was all the thanks I needed.”