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Helping Irene victims one slice at a time

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Chef David Britton parked his mobile Pies-On Wheels wood-fired oven in a church parking lot in Middleburgh on Friday to assist the American Red Cross in efforts to feed people who were displaced by flooding.

David Britton couldn't provide shelter from the storm, but he could offer pizza.

After towns around the Capital District were flooded from rains brought through by the remnants of Hurricane Irene and then again by severe weather last week, Britton, the owner and chef of Pies-On Wheels, wanted to help.

Britton, who lives in Glens Falls, loaded up his mobile wood-fired pizza oven on Friday and headed to Middleburgh to assist the American Red Cross.

"I have what I consider the ultimate in disaster-relief vehicles," Britton said of his truck, which is equipped with a custom-designed, self-contained kitchen.

As residents worked to clear out their property, Britton was stationed in a church parking lot handing out hot food to anyone in need.

"The Red Cross would drive through town with an electronic voice box letting people know where to get meals," he said.

Britton brought supplies to prepare 300 14-inch pizzas, plus a salad, for people affected by the floods, and he served food throughout the evening.

"We were just a shot in the arm - something different," he said. "We didn't save the world, but we did make a nice evening for them."

Jeffery Taylor, the executive director of the American Red Cross East Georgia Chapter who also was in charge of public affairs for the region's relief effort, lauded Britton for his volunteer work.

"He was phenomenal," Taylor said. "I cannot say enough about his attitude. He initiated his contact with the Red Cross, and I just love that."

Britton also received contributions from some of his suppliers, including Glens Falls Produce, Hillcrest Foods and Leland Paper.

"I've always wanted to do it," Britton said. "It was an opportunity that came up, and I had to grab it."

Although he had seen and read media reports about the damage, he admits he was surprised by its scope.

"It was very deceiving when we were driving in because it was such a beautiful day. But then you hit Schoharie, and wow," he said.

As the water receded, people were trying to salvage as much as they could of their homes and businesses, Britton said.

"It was organized chaos. There was a field of stacked up appliances that had been ruined. Driving down Main Street, which had to have been a river, all the homes' doors were open and the insides were down to the frames," he said.

Britton said he was honored to be one of many people who came out to help.

"I'm still processing it. There were a lot of volunteers there. The Red Cross is doing a great job," he said.

Taylor said Britton kept the pies coming until dark, when he had to stop serving because of the local curfew.

At the end of the night, the Red Cross representative did get to take a break and sample some leftovers.

"I got to eat one, and it was the best pizza I ever had," Taylor said.


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