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Bobby Flay surprise selfless man who barbecues for people in need

by Robin Sindler /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Merrill Powers is the head of a Salvation Army Center in Chicago where he's lived out his calling helping people change their lives for the better.

"He wants people to feel loved," his wife Nancy told TODAY. "The person that maybe hasn't had anybody shake their hand... he wants to shake that hand."

Merrill's wife, Nancy, watches her husband get a surprise from one of his idols, Bobby Flay.
Merrill's wife, Nancy, watches her husband get a surprise from one of his idols, Bobby Flay. TODAY

Warren Peeler is one of the men Merrill mentored. At just 6 years old, Warren was drinking. He sold cocaine at 15, and hopped from shelter to shelter until he met Merrill.

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"He told me that, 'Warren, you are somebody. Don't you eve forget that. God has got you here for a reason,"' Warren told TODAY.

Warren Peeler is one of the men whose life Merrill helped change.
Warren Peeler is one of the men whose life Merrill helped change.

While Merrill's calling is to help people, his passion is barbecuing. He's won ribbons for his mouthwatering meals, but he mostly cooks for those in need. Last Thanksgiving, he cooked 120 turkeys for the Salvation Army Center.

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Merrill Powers loves to barbecue!
Merrill Powers loves to barbecue!Nancy Powers

"What he realized is that it really made people happy to have barbecue," Nancy said. "You haven't seen somebody's face light up who yesterday was picking out of a trash can, and today has pulled pork or brisket or barbecue chicken in their hand."

TODAY

A huge fan of The Food Network, Merrill's all-time favorite celebrity chef is Bobby Flay.

Merrill spent 24 grilling for a party that he thought was for the community. But thanks to some creative planning and scheming from Nancy, it was really for him

While giving a speech to start the event, Merrill was surprised by Hoda and also Bobby Flay.

RELATED: Mom flips out when Hoda surprises her on cruise

Hoda and Bobby Flay surprised Merrill while he was giving a speech to kick off a community event.
Hoda and Bobby Flay surprised Merrill while he was giving a speech to kick off a community event. TODAY

"As soon as I got to this neighborhood, I could smell what you're cooking," Bobby told Merrill. "I am here to taste your barbecue!"

Bobby gave Merill's chicken and pulled pork two thumbs up!

TODAY

To top off the party, Nancy lined up a few men whose lives Merrill helped change. They walked in carrying signs that detailed Merrill's impact on them.

"15 years sober. Thanks, Merrill!" one said.

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TODAY

"4 years sober and business owner," said another.

"I am going to college. Love you, Merrill!"

TODAY

“I am proud of them," a visibly touched Merrill told Hoda. "The beauty of being here is we see miracles every day.”

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