Everyone knows that one of the flagship services of the Rhode Island Dream Center is the Food Truck. We are about to wrap up our fifth year feeding the homeless through this program, so we thought this would be a good opportunity for a little history lesson

It actually started as the Live it Up Food Truck with a lot of help from Pastor Levi Pangburn, Chuck Johnson, Mike Harris and the support of Praise Tabernacle Church.  Check out what our first truck looked like:

Original Food Truck

Original Food Truck

Ever wonder what prompted us to send that old truck out?

Back on January 2, 2009, Paul Langlos, a 41-year-old homeless man, died in his sleep in the bitter cold under the Crawford Street Bridge Downtown Providence.  A rotten event, to say the least – and, unfortunately, this is not an isolated event.

At the same time, the city’s homeless were banding together politically to get their stories out there and their voices heard. The homeless came together to commemorate the spot and Hope City (commonly known as Tent City) was organized under said bridge as a thriving community and a place for them to call home, literally. They set up tents and said, ‘we’re gonna watch out for each other and make sure no one dies out here again’…Hope City was born and it doubled as a memorial of sorts for this young man and all the others that have succumbed to the elements and the streets.

Take a look at this video I recently found that explains the camp much better than I ever could (snarkyness aside): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tmi7KtMauJw

Members of Praise Tabernacle Church sprung into action to help John Joyce (we miss you John!!!) and his crew, and the Live It Up Food Truck was born.

There were already a handful of soup kitchens in the city, so we searched for a way that we could make a difference.  Instead of setting up a soup kitchen so the homeless could come to us, we decided to develop a mobile soup kitchen to go visit them!   Someone went looking for a box truck, another decided on a route, another rounded up volunteers to cook food collect donations…and…

Viola…within a few months, everything had come together and we were bringing out hot soup, a fresh piece of bread, and a hot cup of coffee to Hope City and other area homeless communities. As more tent cities sprung up, we found more places to drive to and more people to feed. I remember feeding a community on Cranston Street with about 8 tents, a few more people at Roger Williams Memorial Park on North Main Street, a group with about 20 tents across the pond from Hope City and eventually a large community under the George Washington Bridge in East Providence known as Camp Runamuck.

That was way back in 2009 – this is 2014, and the Food Truck is still going strong…check this out – someone actually donated a brand new truck to us when our old box truck decided it didn’t have any more life in it (I’ll always remember breaking down on the highway in that old truck and the way the exhaust fumes used to rise through the floorboards and choke us out when we were stopped at a red light):

Food Truck

This new truck means we never have to worry about breaking down anymore.  We have even added two more days to the original route – on Sunday afternoons we go to the usual spots and on Saturday mornings we visit downtown Providence with the Early Seekers…

Depending on the day of the month, we pass out between 60 and 120 free meals on the Food Truck.

Every once in a while, one of our guests will take me aside and thank me, letting me know that it is the only food he has eaten for the day…when someone tell me this I always try to sneak them seconds!!! I’m reminded of an older gentleman who comes out to greet me at the Overflow in Cranston, saying “I’ve been thinking about and looking forward to this cup of hot cocoa ALL DAY LONG!!!” What a feeling it is to be able to make someone’s day with such a simple gesture. Over the years. I’ve fed people on their first day out of the ACI, people struggling with long-term homelessness and people temporarily out there on the streets for any number of reasons.  I have gotten to meet some really great people, both clients and volunteers (I met my wonderful wife through the Food Truck).  Some of the people I used to feed have even made it out of homelessness and now help us out. I think of people like Andy, Maria and William – I used to feed them but now they serve along with me as a way to give back. I’m so proud of these guys.  There are others, like George, who are all-star volunteers on the Food Truck and volunteer week after week after week.

As the years went by and Praise Tabernacle birthed the RI Dream Center, the countless volunteers that donated time, energy and money throughout the years raised the Food Truck to maturity – I am so thankful for all your support, and we would not have been able to do any of  what we do without you!!!!

Thanks to all who have played a part in making the Food Truck a success. We truly appreciate the love you have poured out on our community.

In closing, the Food Truck costs at least $1000/month to operate, so if you’d like to make a donation to help us out, please visit our website at www.ridreamcenter.com and give whatever you can – one-time donations are great, and recurring donations help us budget.

So, thanks for checking in today – we want to make sure no one else passes away under our watch…not under bridges, not in doorways, not ANYWHERE!!!!

Be sure to check in soon for future posts to the Dream Center Diary!

We’d love to hear from you:

Oh, by the way, the above information is pulled from my memory (TK) – So please let me know if I got anything wrong (and if I did please forgive me…)

Also, I’m sure there are people I left out….forgive me….

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