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Barbecue chef smokes up meats to provide aid to Bertie County storm victims

Posted at 6:25 PM, Aug 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-16 23:05:51-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Saturday morning, Mark Baldwin placed slabs of ribs onto a smoker, one of several smokers he owns. He said the seasoning on the ribs would give it a sweet taste, but what was even sweeter, he said, was the money raised from the sale of the ribs will go towards the storm victims in Bertie County.

"It was nasty here but then when I found what had happened,” Baldwin explained, “what can we do?”

Baldwin is the owner of Midtown Eats on J. Clyde Morris Blvd. in Newport News. The storm he referred to was Tropical Storm Isaias.

It brought destruction and a tornado onto Bertie County and the destruction is fresh his mind. It killed two people and injured 14.

“It was the exact same storm that us that, him them,” Baldwin said. “It could have easily, have been right here."

He is no stranger to firing up the smoker for charity. The last time he did was for a fundraiser for fallen Newport News Police Officer Katie Thyne.

Now, he fired the smokers and 350 pounds of meat to help the storm victims.

"I would say about 15,000 people have seen the posts,” Baldwin said. “Some of them, our regulars have commented on underneath that they'll be here, but we need everybody to get out here."

It rained heavily on Saturday, but it could not put out the fire, smoke, and dedication as the meat cooked and lines of cars pulled in to pick up food after 11 a.m.

One of them was Amy Gardner of Norfolk. She said she was originally from Pitt County, North Carolina, just southwest of Bertie County.

“That's why I was so shocked for us to go through those tornado warnings,” Gardner said, recalling that day. “I can't imagine."

Another customer was David Grose. He also said he was shocked at the devastation and that this fundraiser was part of his demeanor.

"He did this to help the officer that was slain a while back and it didn't surprise me,” Grose said. “That's just what Mark does, that's the way he does it."

"It's up to the community, we have to take care of each other,” Baldwin said. “The government can't do it all, the churches can't do it all."

He said the fundraiser continued until all the meat was sold, but added he will not stop there.

"I won't be happy until we write a big fat check to the people of Bertie County,” Baldwin said.

The fundraiser raised $2820 and Baldwin said the restaurant is going to contribute on top of the raised amount. The amount will be determined.