'Meals for 18 Wheels' group feeds more than 200 drivers Christmas week

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 12/27/2013

Honestly, Crystal Schoonmaker didn’t expect it to get this big, this soon.

“No, not at all,” said Schoonmaker, one of the administrators for the Facebook group Meals for 18 Wheels. “Not at all. It got out there pretty fast.”

The group serves as a message board matching drivers who are stranded or stuck on the road for the holidays with volunteers who bring them a hot meal. Despite having been around for only a month, the group was able to serve more than 200 meals from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26.

“We had volunteers who took food to truck stops as well (rather than specific truckers),” Schoonmaker said in a phone interview with Land Line on Friday. “We had 203 meals for the week so far. That’s also five pizzas, 40 bags of cookies – and four dogs got a plate, too.”

The 40 bags of cookies came courtesy of a single volunteer on the outskirts of Chicago.

“She couldn’t do food so she made cookies,” she said. “We had another lady and her mom load up the back of their minivan and deliver 30 plates at a truck stop.They just served them out of the back of the van.”

The group planned to continue holiday meal deliveries through Friday, Dec. 27, before regrouping next week.

“We’re going to regroup on Monday and revamp the whole system to make it easier for us and for our volunteers and drivers,” Schoonmaker said. “We’ve got to make it work faster. …We’re going to continue to run the page. If anybody’s in need, post to the page and we’ll try to accommodate that request.”

Schoonmaker said the group has thought about planning special events for holidays like Easter, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as well.

“The page is always available for somebody in need,” she said. “There are a lot of new drivers who don’t even have two pennies to rub together because the companies aren’t paying them enough and who don’t have any food in their truck. They don’t anticipate being stuck somewhere forever (without food).”

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, which is run by Kari Fisher.

Despite the short notice, Fisher and Schoonmaker said they were still able to get meals to at least 31 drivers on Thanksgiving Day. For Christmas, Schoonmaker said she added four additional administrators to the page – Amber Wilson, Stephen and Dana Strong, and Sarah Bridwell.
“They’ve been busting their butts,” she said. “They’ve been a big help. They really pulled some miracles out of the hat.”

For more information, check out the group’s Facebook page.

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