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Local Favorite Gives Back to Kokomo Veterans

Photographer / Jim Hunt

Kokomo residents are likely familiar with the delicious pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw of Hawg Heaven. But according to owner Carol Wills, the restaurant has now served hungry customers from coast to coast.

“We just did a wedding in Myrtle Beach (in September),” Wills says. “I’ve taken ribs to San Diego. So I say they’ve had Hawg Heaven food from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.”

Founded in March 2012, Hawg Heaven specializes in pulled pork, while also offering up other delicious options like a Cuban sandwich, slow-smoked baby back ribs and more. In addition to feeding satisfied customers, Hawg Heaven also prides itself in giving back to the Kokomo community, regularly donating funds to local organizations that focus on kids and veterans.

For the Wills family, running a restaurant is nothing new.

“We bought the restaurant in Burlington, The Dinner Bell, in 2006,” Wills says. “We still own that property, and we smoke all of our meat out there. But you can’t eat in there.”

From the beginning, Hawg Heaven has found success with a simple, no-nonsense food menu.

“We have pretty much been consistent at selling the same thing,” Wills says. “We have a very small menu. We don’t do tacos. We don’t do gyros. We don’t do pizza.”

According to Wills, the quintessential meal at Hawg Heaven consists of a pulled pork sandwich served with baked beans and coleslaw.

“It’s my mom’s recipe of coleslaw, which is a creamy coleslaw with no vinegar,” Wills says. “We sell a ton of that. We put pork in our baked beans, and we sell a ton of baked beans.”

When catering events, this heavenly trio of items is usually what customers ask for.

“We do weddings on the weekends for people,” Wills says. “And basically, the three things that most weddings want are pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw. Because if you’ve got a plate with just those three things, you don’t even want wedding cake.”

In addition to weddings, Hawg Heaven uses a 28-foot concession trailer to serve hungry customers at the Kokomo Event Center. Wills’ husband Mike has also been known to do a fish fry or two in support of a local cause.

“Normally, it has something to do with a school or a church,” Wills says of the fish fries. “And Mike, he pretty much takes care of all that.”

In recent years, Hawg Heaven has also donated funds to several veteran organizations in Kokomo. Every Friday, in fact, the restaurant sells a baked potato, with proceeds benefiting the Howard County Veterans Memorial Corporation.

“We do a baked potato on Fridays, and it’s called the Jerry Paul potato,” Wills says. “We just write a check to the Howard County Veterans Memorial. Jerry is the president of that. Sometimes he gives money to The Gilead House. I don’t care what he does with the money because I trust that he’s doing something good with it.”

Last year, Hawg Heaven also donated a total of $45,000 to three different Kokomo-based organizations serving veterans.

“We gave back $15,000 to the DAV [Disabled American Veterans] in Kokomo because they needed to buy a van [for transporting veterans],” Wills says. “We gave the Military Foundation $15,000. The Military Foundation helps any veteran around Kokomo if they can’t pay their mortgage or if their water is getting ready to get shut off. And then, we gave $15,000 to the Howard County Veterans Memorial Corporation for the women’s statue that we’re getting ready to do.

“I told them I was going to give them a percentage, and I think they thought I was going to give them $5,000 each or something,” Wills adds. “But I was able to give them $15,000 each, so they were all happy with that.”

All in all, she and her husband just like being able to give back to their Kokomo community.

“It’s just really about being able to help out,” Wills says.

Hawg Heaven is located at 425 W Deffenbaugh Street in Kokomo. You can also visit them online at HawgHeaven.net and give them a call at 765-450-6584.

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