On Thursday, Christmas Eve, one big truck and one even bigger truck pulled into the parking lot of a hotel by the airport in Warwick. They were carrying some holiday cheer: Barbecue, cookies and coffee for homeless people recovering from COVID-19.
“It does me good,” said Steve Gilman, the cookie, cupcakes and coffee guy, who hauled his bounty with a pickup truck. “I’m very thankful I have my family around me, and we’re all healthy. These are people that are on hard times, struggling and alone. You give them something nice, something homemade, hopefully it’ll brighten their day.”
We’re nearing the end of a challenging year — especially for people experiencing homelessness. The state set up the hotel, on Post Road, for homeless people to quarantine and isolate if they test positive for COVID, an effort to stop its spread in crowded shelters and to get them the support they need. As Christmas approached, there were dozens of people who needed to use it.
To a different degree and in different ways, it’s also been a challenging year for food truck operators. They do business at the sorts of big events that were forbidden or at most lightly attended this year. If a food truck owner did 30% to 40% of normal business this year, one person in the industry says, they’d have been lucky.
Thursday represented something of a win-win: Customers have been donating to the trucks to fund food drop-offs for first responders and medical workers. Now the food truck season is shutting down for the year, and the trucks are using what’s left in the kitty to help fund meals for homeless people on Christmas. The trucks themselves, along with a food truck event organizer, subsidized up the rest.
Gilman, the proprietor of Poppy’s Waffles, brought in 60 cupcakes and 60 packages of three chocolate chip cookies, which he made in his own food truck. He also brought coffee from the Presto Strange O food truck. But he arrived in a more practical vehicle: his pickup truck.
“Merry Christmas,” Gilman said to the man behind the wheel of a bigger rig: a huge food truck decorated with a fierce-looking pig.
“Merry Christmas,” said Shane Caledonia, the proprietor of Bonetown Burgers and BBQ.
Caledonia brought in pulled pork and pulled chicken, along with cornbread and potato salad. Bonetown has a location in Cranston and the mobile one that he drove to the hotel Thursday.
“We’re fortunate to have collected some money and to be able to help out,” Caledonia said.
The initiative was put together with the help of Eric Weiner, whose website, FoodTrucksIn.com, helps people find food trucks. He also organizes outings with a group he founded called PVD Food Truck Events.
Those events were a little more challenging this year in the era of social distancing, Weiner said via telephone. They’re the same sorts of challenges that the restaurant industry as a whole was facing. Usually these micro-businesses will survive the winter on the excess cash they made over the holiday. This year is different.
“A lot of trucks are on edge about whether they’ll make it till next season,” Weiner said.
But still, they were able to come out Thursday to help out for people living and working throughout the holiday in a hotel.
“With most of the trucks starting to shut down for the holiday, and maybe with a little left over from the season,” Weiner said, “they were able to do something nice.”
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