Charity

Weekly warm up, on wheels

Locals line up for warm food and familiar company

Bagged biscuits to go.   Maddie Johnson

Cold rain blows across the glassy street while a handful of people line up for hot beverages and a cup of homemade stew.

It’s just after 5:00 p.m., the sunlight has all but disappeared over the horizon and a large white truck sits in its usual location. It must be Wednesday. Dave Jackson and his crew of volunteers buzz around the back, bagging sandwiches and handing out water bottles to accompany the warm meal.

“Hi Larry, how’s the memoir going?” Jackson says as he passes a napkin to the next customer.

The converted kitchen on wheels was developed by the Salvation Army. Every week throughout the winter, Jackson packs up the truck and drives it to its usual location, no matter what the weather. He says the idea is to provide a warm meal and some relief to the hungry and homeless. Jackson, a self-proclaimed “regular” at the Salvation Army, adopted the project 12 years ago, and he almost never misses a trip.

“The truck isn’t supposed to drive in high winds, but even that normally doesn’t stop me,” he says. “If Christmas or New Years Eve falls on a Wednesday, I’ll be out here in the same spot.”

Jackson has a temporary permit to park the truck during the winter, but in the summertime various food trucks occupy the location. The truck runs from the end of November until mid-April. He says he would love to run it all year long, but it’s not plausible in the summer due to the higher volume of people on the street.

“You have to meet your target audience,” he says. “Winters can get pretty bad out here, and a warm meal goes a long way for some people.”

Regulars having their Wednesday night “dinner party.”   Maddie Johnson

Jackson says he gets anywhere from 25 to 75 people in the two hours the truck is set up. People can have as much food as they want, and many take sandwiches to go as well. The regulars know the time and location and Jackson knows most of them by name.

The volunteers banter with everyone who stops by, asking about family members and cracking jokes.

Wayne Lavigne is one of their regulars. Although he doesn’t make it out every week, Lavigne loves to come say hi when he’s in the area.

“We all kind of meet here, like our own dinner party,” he says. “Plus, the stew is amazing.”

Wayne Lavigne enjoying his stew.   Maddie Johnson

All the food is prepared beforehand at the Salvation Army on Gottingen St., except the sandwiches, which are made by request. The truck also carries water, juice, hot chocolate and warm tea biscuits. Jackson says they usually shuffle between stews and chili — anything that’s warm and filling.

“Let me guess, ham on white with mustard?” Jackson says to the next customer who pokes his head through the window.

“You know it,” says the man. “And can I grab a pair of socks too.”

Along with food, the truck has several large Tupperware containers filled with clothing and blankets. Jackson says socks are the most common item and tries to encourage people to take them, especially on wet evenings like this one. The project isn’t advertised, but Jackson says he’s happy to feed anyone who is in need of a warm meal.

“One thing about the Salvation Army is that we keep pretty quiet,” says Jackson. “We don’t like to brag about what we’re doing.”