On a hot Thursday in June, my husband, Patrick, and I tag-teamed with each other as we accompanied my sister, Kelly, on the Food For Our Journey (FFOJ) truck. Patrick took the morning shift and I took the afternoon shift. We are both FFOJ Board Members, so we have played a small part of this wonderful ministry from its beginning. However, due to the pandemic and our residing in Pennsylvania, this was the first opportunity we had to experience FFOJ and Kelly in action! We had an idea what to expect; however, the day (and my sister) far exceeded our expectations!
Patrick’s shift was first, so at 7:30am he rode with Kelly in the truck as she drove from Homewood to Pelham to pick up donated breakfast wraps, water, and orange drinks. Those items comprised the “main course” of the breakfast, supplemented by doughnuts and fruit, all supplied by generous donors!
Once the food had been collected, the morning distribution route began. Kelly skillfully made her way through downtown Birmingham, following her standard route, but stopping frequently whenever she saw one of her friends. I call them her friends because they really are. She knows their names, and they know hers. She talks with them about what’s going on in their lives. They respond to this by engaging in cheerful banter with her. It was obvious that Kelly/FFOJ has become a staple in their lives, someone they can depend on, especially in the craziness of the pandemic!
At her two main food stops, Kelly’s food distribution ran like clockwork. All who flocked to the truck knew exactly what to expect and waited patiently in line to be served. Even though Patrick was new to the process, Kelly instructed him and everything went off without a hitch! All those they encountered received the food they needed to start the day. And perhaps more important than the food was the love of God they encountered, poured through Kelly, working as His instrument. Kelly’s interactions with these souls is marked by this Godly love, clearly evident in all the “God bless yous” exchanged between Kelly and her friends.
After making several more stops on her morning route and some additional stops picking up more donated food items, Kelly and Patrick headed to Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Homewood to rendezvous with me. While the three of us were there, we unloaded various items from the truck & carted lots of bagged lunches and donated water bottles into a kitchen. Then Kelly and I boarded the food truck and we were off on the afternoon shift!
The afternoon route was similar to the morning route, with Kelly adeptly navigating downtown Birmingham in her truck. Our first stops were to the South Side residences of several “food insecure” friends. These people are not homeless, but are struggling nonetheless to put food on their tables. We offered them some bagged lunches and water, chatted with them a bit, then were on our way. Once downtown, we stopped at a gas station, at “tent city”, and under an interstate overpass to hand out bagged lunches and waters. Again, Kelly knew the names (and stories) of all those she encountered.
We stopped at the Redmont Hotel and picked up a large number of donated hot chicken sandwiches and fries to distribute at our first stop. Like the morning stops, all those gathered knew “the drill” and waited patiently in line for their turn. Kelly helped me to learn the ropes of serving a hot meal out of a food truck and again, everything went off without a hitch! We made a stop at Dave’s Pizza to pick up donated (& delicious smelling) slices for our next stop. We still had some remaining chicken sandwiches and fries, so everyone had quite the selection that afternoon! And they were so grateful.
As we pulled away from each stop that day, Kelly was sure to let them know she’d see them tomorrow. That impressed me. Food For Our Journey is able to provide a sense of stability for these people whose lives are quite unpredictable. They know they can count on Kelly (and Christine— Kelly’s co-laborer in the vineyard) to be back again the next day. That is how these relationships of trust have been formed!
In reflecting back on “our view from the truck” that day, I can say with full confidence as a FFOJ Board Member, as a donor, and now as a volunteer, that Food for Our Journey is fulfilling their mission of “delivering meals to the hungry, putting God’s love into action”!!! I am so proud of my sister and her generous heart! I encourage anyone who wants to volunteer on the FFOJ truck to do so— I know you will be so blessed by the experience! It’s a labor of love you won’t regret.