Facebook group launches campaign to bring 'Meals for 18 Wheels' during holidays

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 12/4/2013

Kathy Youngblood’s Thanksgiving night was off to a pretty bad start.

Youngblood, an OOIDA member from Dothan, Ala., was stuck at a FedEx parking lot in Tampa, Fla., out of hours and waiting to pick up a load at a facility that had already shut down for the holiday.

“I had no access to a restroom, no access to a snack machine, and I was out of time on my clock,” she said in a phone interview with Land Line. “(Her employer) wanted me to stay there for a load that didn’t exist. They were told at 12 noon that the load wasn’t going out.”

Admittedly feeling miserable, Youngblood said she got on Facebook and came across a group called “Meals for 18 Wheels,” that promised to deliver a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner to truckers who were on the road for the holidays.

So Youngblood said she signed up. And shortly thereafter a family of good Samaritans came and delivered a home-cooked meal to her.

“They drove 30 miles to bring me a meal,” she said, adding the family brought their two children along and stayed with her for two hours so she didn’t have to eat alone.

Youngblood said the food was as good as the company.

“I had deviled eggs, green beans, turkey, dressing and rolls,” she said. “And some soda pop. They brought me some coffee, but I don’t drink coffee. It was a good meal, and it was awesome that somebody would take the time out of their day to do this for truckers.”

According to the group’s organizers, the Meals for 18 Wheels Facebook group started on Wednesday, Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, with a post from a driver onto the Missing Truck Driver Alert Facebook page, run by Kari Fisher.

“We made a post on the Missing Truck Driver Alert page, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and somebody made a comment that they were bummed out because the trucking industry was keeping them away from family and friends over the holidays,” she said.

Despite the short notice, Fisher and fellow organizer Crystal Schoonmaker said they were still able to get meals to at least 31 drivers on Thanksgiving Day.

Like Youngblood, OOIDA member Joseph Javinsky was also on the road for Thanksgiving. Javinsky, of Tampa, Fla., was stuck at the Love’s truck stop in Ft. Mills, S.C., off of I-77 when he got his home-cooked meal delivered, compliments of Meals for 18 Wheels volunteers.

“I was on Facebook, and I saw that page, so I went on there and told them what was going on. And someone offered to come up there and bring me a meal,” Javinsky said. “It was turkey, ham, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, some sweet potato casserole … pecan pie, sweet potato pie and a brownie.”

Javinsky said the couple who dropped off his hot plate were en route to Charlotte, N.C., to drop off a few more plates to drivers.

“It really made my day. It seems like these days people don’t appreciate the drivers like they used to,” he said. “But it’s nice to see that people still do.”

Schoonmaker serves as one of the administrators for the page. She goes over the road with her husband, James Schoonmaker, who joined OOIDA in October at the Heart of America Trucking Show. Like many other truckers, they found themselves away from home during the holiday.

“With me being on the road with my husband and (Kari) being on the road, we know how it feels to be on the road for the holidays and not have a home-cooked meal,” she said. “We thought it’d be a great idea, it took off really, really fast, and we’re really overwhelmed by how fast it took off.”

The group is already coordinating plans for a similar effort over the Christmas holiday, and is accepting volunteers to sign up and help deliver food to truckers on the road Dec. 23-27.

“Right now we’ve got 33 states covered, and it’s spreading like wildfire,” Schoonmaker said.

Schoonmaker said the group is also looking for drivers who want to sign up to receive a meal. The group does have a few guidelines, such as recommending that truckers and volunteers meet in a public place such as a truck stop, rather than trying to meet at the truck.

“We appreciate the support from people who are willing to take time out to deliver a meal,” Schoonmaker said. “They understand what it’s like. But you don’t have to be in the industry to help drivers. It’s human compassion. We want to thank everybody for helping us. ... Hopefully next year it’ll be much bigger.”

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