SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In recent months, truck drivers have once again earned the title of “knights of the highway,” ensuring that supplies reach their intended destination in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic.
For one Missouri-based nonprofit, that goal of helping others in times of crisis has never wavered.
A faith-based organization that distributes food and relief supplies, Convoy of Hope has partnerships with large food corporations, allowing the group to provide aid through several different programs.
While the convoy has offered much-needed assistance during the COVID-19 crisis, members of the group usually help with disaster relief to communities that have been affected by hurricanes or tornadoes. In addition, the nonprofit has a rural initiative, working with local communities and nonprofits, as well as church and other faith-based communities.
Mike Coble, safety and compliance manager for Convoy of Hope, said the group’s workload has increased quite bit in recent months due to COVID-19. Churches and organizations have reached out to the organization, asking for trailer loads of supplies to be used for drive-thru distribution.
“Church volunteers wear masks and gloves and load bags of groceries … ” Coble said. “That is happening at the churches all across the country.”
He said the organization also has international feeding initiatives with countries around the world. Currently the COVID-19 pandemic is the convoy’s only active disaster outreach, but Coble said the organization is prepped and ready to assist in case of additional crises.
“I know hurricane season is coming up, and that’s always a big deal for us during that time,” he said.
Coble said the organization purchased six trucks late in 2019 and early this year, and there are two more on back order. He added that the group has strong relationships with Peterbilt, Kenworth and Freightliner. In a press release, Convoy of Hope said four Kenworth T680s with 76-inch sleepers were purchased.
“Our trucks are provided by donors all across the country,” Coble said. “As soon as the trucks came on the lot, they were sent right back on the road.
“A lot of the manufacturers have shut down, and we were lucky enough to purchase those (trucks) in advance and far enough out that they arrived when we needed them,” he continued. “We wouldn’t have been able to receive those trucks later.”
The organization operates 19 tractor-trailers, and Coble said they also have a host of
DOT-regulated vehicles, box trucks, goose-neck trailers and Ford F-250 pickups.
“We ramped up the number of miles we serve and the number of volunteer drivers during this time,” Coble said.
The organization started out with a campaign of providing 10 million meals, Coble said, adding that two weeks ago that number was completed. He decided the group decided “just to keep going to help as many people as we can for as long as we can.”
“Most of everything we do comes from individual donors or organization partners like churches, or corporation partnerships such as Hormel and Home Depot,” he said. “The majority of our truck drivers are volunteer truck drivers, and many of them are retired. We want to use their unique skills to give back.”
Coble said the hardest challenge is ramping quickly enough to serve when needed.
“In fact, we were laughing amongst ourselves (that) as soon as one of the trucks come into the ramp, we have to get everything set up and ready to go and sent it out the same day,” he said. “We put the supplies in the truck, such as oil, antifreeze or any tools needed. As soon as it is ready and legal, the trucks are on the road.”
Coble said he feels very blessed that Convoy of Hope has such a wide reach. He said there were some concerns early on that they wouldn’t be able to fulfill the need but that donors have filled the gap.
“We have strong long-term partnerships, and we have been an organization for over 25 years. We really haven’t seen a drop in distribution of significance yet,” he said.
“We always want to be a helper on the local scene,” he said. “We want to come into town, into a faith-based community, when churches or other organization reach out to us and help meet the needs of the
Coble said it all boils down to supporters who believe in the mission.
“We have long-standing relationships with donors in the faith-based community and companies who are standing alongside us because they know we help people,” he said. “It is donors across the board. We are asking for funds because of the COVID-19 relief.”
To learn more, visit convoyofhope.org.
Sam Pierce has been a journalist for more than a decade and has written for several publications including The Trucker, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Living Our Faith magazine. He enjoys spending time with his family including his two daughters. They like to watch movies, read books and build LEGO sets.