GrillsGiving unites community to help neighbors in need

Country rock rhythms filled the cool, crisp fall air with the luring aroma of wood-fired BBQ at Mission County Park. More than 30 grill teams huddled around massive BBQ pits to smoke and season savory meats with hopes of winning over the taste buds of the judges and crowd. The sights and smells of GrillsGiving: A Celebration of Meat + Music provided a welcoming atmosphere for more than 3,000 guests. Everyone who walked through the gates at GrillsGiving became part of an unforgettable event for a good cause.

Lending a hand to customers is at the heart of GrillsGiving. The combination of great BBQ, live entertainment and family fun raised $73,000 for the Residential Energy Assistance Partnership (REAP), more than double the amount of last year’s event! The REAP fund helps struggling families in San Antonio and Bexar County with their energy bill. On average, one in five families in Bexar County struggle to pay energy bills. That statistic can often increase because of changes in weather during the extreme summer and winter months which leads to more energy use. In the nearly 20 years since this partnership began, we’ve given over $1 million to the REAP fund.

“CPS Energy is part of this community and we have 3,100 employee who have a heart for service,” said Felecia Etheridge, Chief Customer Engagement Officer. “We believe, as part of this community, it’s our responsibility to give back to those who are in need.”

Roland Hinojosa, Program/Project Manager with Local Government Relations, enjoys competing every year because it combines two of his passions – serving up award-winning BBQ and serving the customers and the community he loves. Roland, who has enjoyed a 35-year career at CPS Energy, said the annual tradition is an example of how CPS Energy has become more responsive to customer needs over the years. Roland has seen this firsthand working with suburban cities, city council and our Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to put People First into action.

“Over the years, we’ve grown with the community and we’ve become more responsive and intentional with meeting the needs of our customers,” said Roland. “It’s been a privilege to see how the company has grown since I started in the 80s.”

One example is the growing list of customer assistance programs like REAP, which provide utility assistance for customers experiencing hardships.

Roland enjoys the camaraderie and teamwork that it takes to win. He doesn’t mind staying up all night with his team, Blowin’ Smoke, to slow cook a brisket to perfection.

“Timing is everything,” said Roland. “We look at cooking temperatures, the outside temperature and gauge the time we have to turn in food (to the judges). We go above and beyond to create a great experience for everyone at GrillsGiving.”

All the team’s efforts paid off. Blowin’ Smoke was awarded top honors – People’s Choice Best BBQ Team and CPS Energy Best All-Around Team for the second year in a row.

Blowin’ Smoke wasn’t the only award-winning team. Here’s the full list of winners:

Juried Competition Results

1st Place Teams:

  • Chicken: RAM-QUE
  • Ribs: Fire & Ice
  • Brisket: Lone Star Cookers

2nd Place Teams:

  • Chicken: Solid Fuelers
  • Ribs: Gajeske
  • Brisket: Gajeske

3rd Place Teams:

  • Chicken: Blowin’ Smoke
  • Ribs: Come & Taste It
  • Brisket: Cook County BBQ

Guest Voting Results

People’s Choice Best Side: Come & Taste It 

People’s Choice Best BBQ Team: Blowin’ Smoke 

CPS Energy-Only Team Results

CPS Energy Best All-Around Team: Blowin’ Smoke


We want to thank everyone who came out to GrillsGiving to help our neighbors in need. We also send a special shout-out to the more than 260 BBQ Team participants and nearly 90 volunteers who made the event a huge success.

If you didn’t get a chance to join in the fun at GrillsGiving, make plans to join us next year! If you would like to join our efforts to support REAP, you can give today. Click here to learn more. Your gift will make the holiday season warmer and brighter for your neighbors in need. 

Sam Taylor

Sam is part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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