Bill Schwenk and RobbieÂ Hughes once were ranger roommates.Â Now, the two coownÂ a barbecue business, â€œBillÂ and Robbieâ€™s Excellent BBQÂ Adventure.â€
In October 2020, Schwenk wasÂ newly out of the military and HughesÂ was out of work. Hughes randomlyÂ called up Schwenk one autumnÂ afternoon and said, â€œWhat are weÂ doing tomorrow? I quit my job.â€
Before the call, Schwenk had goneÂ to appraise a house in his area. AtÂ the house, Schwenk was met withÂ a kind mother, a disabled fatherÂ and a son on the Autism spectrum.
The mother expressed that she wasÂ heartbroken that they could not visitÂ their grandparents up north thatÂ holiday season, due to COVID.
Perhaps the most heartbrokenÂ member, however, was her son.Â Each year, his grandparents hungÂ up Christmas lights, which was hisÂ favorite thing to look forward to.
Without hesitating, Schwenk offeredÂ to hang up the lights for them,Â accompanied by Hughes.Â After the lights had been strung,Â Hughes hurried to find Schwenk.Â The son was outside, marveling withÂ â€œextreme joy,â€ as Schwenk put it, atÂ his new lights.
â€œDid you see that?â€ HughesÂ asked, with tears in his eyes. â€œWeÂ canâ€™t charge them for this. That wasÂ enough.â€
Thus, the â€œExcellent ChristmasÂ Adventureâ€ was born. Â Following its creation,Â Hughes came up with a name for their barbecue food truck business,Â as well: â€œBill and Robbieâ€™s ExcellentÂ BBQ Adventure.â€
Hughes was proudÂ of the name; Schwenk found itÂ ridiculous. Nevertheless, it stuck.
â€œEverybody loves it,â€ SchwenkÂ said.
For Bill and Robbieâ€™s ExcellentÂ BBQ Adventure, Schwenk handlesÂ the business and Hughes handlesÂ the barbecue. Schwenk said thatÂ Hughes can make anything tasteÂ good. Hughesâ€™ love for cooking â€”Â particularly barbecue â€” comes fromÂ the backyard, and his talent comesÂ from his mom.
This year, the business has beenÂ serving veterans in the community,Â as well as providing meals for theÂ East Alabama Food Bank and a localÂ Down Syndrome fundraiser. ThroughÂ partnerships with local Autism andÂ Down Syndrome foundations, theÂ Excellent Christmas Adventure hasÂ been able to gear up for its secondÂ year.
â€œThe autism/down syndromeÂ community is so much more vastÂ than I anticipated,â€ Schwenk said.
Additionally, Schwenk said thatÂ he has noticed just how tight-knitÂ of a community the special needsÂ groups are here in Auburn-Opelika.Â Though Schwenk himself has fewÂ familial connections to those withÂ disabilities, both he and HughesÂ have had their hearts touched byÂ the need they see in Auburn-LeeÂ County. Schwenk said that in â€œGodâ€™sÂ economy,â€ everyone is created equal.
â€œI donâ€™t think God sees disabilities,â€ SchwenkÂ said. â€œThe way I see it is that my problems just aren’tÂ for everybody to see. I could be labeled with threeÂ other things. But I hide them â€¦ But because theirsÂ are on display for everybody, we deem them to haveÂ disabilities.â€
For the month of December, the Excellent ChristmasÂ Adventure is dedicated to working with localÂ organizations focused on people with disabilities toÂ identify needs in the community. Schwenk and HughesÂ will primarily be focused on hanging up lights to bringÂ visual joy to those they are serving.
â€œThe point is to make that person feel loved, even for aÂ moment,â€ Schwenk said.
While their target audience remains veterans and thoseÂ on the spectrum, or with Down Syndrome, Schwenk saidÂ that he does not want to â€œpigeon-holeâ€ their ministry orÂ â€œput God on a shelf.â€ Schwenk and Hughes are dedicatedÂ to serving anyone who needs it.
Excellent Christmas Adventure accepts both volunteersÂ and donations. Volunteers can offer their assistanceÂ through messaging the barbecue businessâ€™ FacebookÂ page. Seeing as Schwenk and Hughes will be showing upÂ in costume to decorate, they encourage any volunteers toÂ do so as well and embrace the Christmas spirit.
Donations can be made through Venmo to @ExtendedHeartFoundation. Schwenk noted that aÂ generous donor even gave $500 on the first day thatÂ the Venmo account opened. Any money will go towardÂ buying lights, as well as helping pay for the power bill ofÂ the houses they attend. Anything less than this would beÂ â€œshort-sighted,â€ Schwenk said.
Currently, the group is working on constructing aÂ permanent foundation to gather funds for the ExcellentÂ Christmas Adventure, to meet the needs of theÂ community. The Foundation will be named after KimÂ Epperson, former childrenâ€™s minister at Trinity Church inÂ Auburn. Epperson recently passed away due to COVIDÂ and health complications.
Schwenk said naming the foundation after her feltÂ right. The love that Excellent Christmas AdventureÂ strives to show to the community is a reflection of theÂ same affection that Epperson bestowed upon the childrenÂ she cared for.
Both co-owners hope that the business can one dayÂ expand and that the Excellent Christmas Adventure willÂ become a nationwide service project. As he entrusts itÂ into Godâ€™s hands, Schwenk said he would love to seeÂ cities across America looking to serve their communitiesÂ in this way.