It was a 4 a.m. alarm that started the rainy day, the previous ten days a blur of preparing for my Oscar Mayer Wienermobile ‘Shotbun Ride’ and “Good Mood Mission”. I’d only had two hours of sleep after a late night of food preparation for my “mission”, but I was rarin’ to go on this day I knew would yield great things and wonderful memories.
It started back on July 1, 2010, when after a late night of researching about all the great hunger relief initiatives Kraft Foods has undertaken, I ran across the Wienermobile contest with a $5000 prize and a ‘Shotbun’ ride, so I quickly completed the sentence re: what I would do if I won a shotbun ride, for my good mood mission. I kind of forgot about it until a couple of days before I was notified on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, that I had qualified as a Finalist!
Following was my submission:
“If I could ride ‘Shotbun’ in the Wienermobile, I would ride to all the food pantries in the valley, feed the hungry kids Oscar Mayer All Beef Franks, take fresh vegetables from my garden, & invite my neighbors & valley to bring theirs to local food banks to share, where I’ll serve GREAT Philly Cream Cheese dishes and tell all about how Kraft Foods is doing SO MUCH to stomp out hunger in America through it’s partnership with Feeding America and the 8 mobile food pantries dispensing fresh food to rural areas throughout the U.S. And then, I’d take photographs of all involved, capturing the childrens’ joy over seeing the Weinermobile and post them in my FeedTheUS.com website! :^)“
There was a lot to do, like letting community gardeners know to bring their harvests to the food pantries, hungry people to show up, people to know when and where to see the Wienermobile, etc.!
I got ready for the ride by coordinating with Kraft/helping notify news media, following up continuously, getting PSA’s to local tv, radio and news media, being involved in a 3-way bilingual interview/discussion on a local Latino radio station for 45 minutes, appearing in two news articles in The Aspen Times and Post Independent, getting seeds donated and picked up, planning menus for the food pantry BBQ/stops, shopping lists and equipment that I’d need for the two stops, buying and preparing and transporting all the food, getting volunteers to help along the way, etc. But, it all worked beyond my wildest dreams…
Two days before my ride, I had a wild idea that I should pass out packets of seeds to participants with the understanding that they would “plant a row for hunger”, to donate to the food pantries during the next growing season. I got on the phone and called Botanical Interests out of Broomfield, Colorado, who sell incredible organic seeds, great for high altitude. Botanical Interests overnighted a box containing 600 packets of herb and vegetable seeds! (They have a GREAT website with lots of info for newbies and experienced alike!) Then, the evening before my ride, I drove to Newcastle to meet with the owner of Niemann’s Gardens, who donated envelopes of seed she had grown and collected. We had a remarkable time over the course of the two hours I was there, collecting seed and picking lots of fresh veggies she donated for my “Good Mood Mission”.
On the way home, I decided to check out the Glenwood Springs Community Gardens, (which are AMAZING!), was driving down the frontage road, glanced over and saw the Wienermobile parked in the parking lot of the Residence Inn! Urrrrrrch! I pulled in, trotted myself right into the lobby and the afternoon reception for the guests where I saw Patrick McLoughlin aka ‘Picklin’ Pat’, tall, big All-American grin, in a red shirt with a Wienermobile logo stitched where a pocket should be. I think he thought I was a crazy woman when I walked up and addressed him by name! Then, I met Patrick’s lovely crew mate, Tatum Risch aka ‘Tate-Yum’. Tatum’s beauty goes deep and I loved how genuine and sweet both were. I had a short but great time talking to them as well as a great feeling about how the ride was going to go. I felt like I’d already made great friends. My intuition couldn’t have been more right on!
As the rain fell the following morning, I worked as fast and hard as I could, packing the equipment in the car and another truck, but kept hitting delays. My helper, Amilcar, arrived late with his crew to move the 6′ grill. We finally picked up the grill and headed to Carbondale to meet the Wienermobile at the Third Street Center. As we arrived, volunteers were milling around, awaiting the list of tasks to get done, and the Wienermobile crew was busy conducting fun games and peeks inside the Wienermobile to the gardeners, the hungry, and the curious. All were awaiting the warm grilled Oscar Mayer All Beef Hot Dogs, pasta salad and lemon bars made with Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheeses, per my commitment in my original contest entry. (And using recipes I submitted to the Real Women of Philadelphia contests!)
The time went by so fast at the Carbondale food pantry. We quickly unloaded and set up tables and equipment for the BBQ only to learn that the grill had a broken connection and/or a bad propane tank so the volunteers from the Jaywalkers Lodge set out to locate another of each. We finally grilled amid talking to several participants, and meeting experienced local gardeners that had ideas for how to grow the plant a row for hunger campaign in the Roaring Fork Valley. Several parents had taken their kids out of school, to not only see the Wienermobile but to learn values, leaving with seed packets and proclaiming their promises to plant a row to donate to the food pantries.
One memorable moment in the day happened when a volunteer from the Lift Up food pantry came to me, handed me a cell phone and explained there was an angry woman on the other end, wanting to talk to me. I barely said, “hello”, when the voice on the other end launched into telling me she was, “in charge of the Glenwood Springs food pantry and knew nothing about the Wienermobile coming, they didn’t have time to deal with fresh produce and their clients really had no desire for fresh produce”. When she finally took a breath, I explained that this had already been OK’d through the Director of Lift Up and the GWS Lift up Director, that we were fully self-contained and we’d only be there a couple of hours. That placated her for the time being. So… we packed up and hit the road to Glenwood Springs, in the Wienermobile.
As we climbed the stairs into the space-age looking, 27′ long, 11′ high, 14,050 pound Wienermobile, (with the chassis being a converted Chevrolet), I was immediately struck by how clean, colorful and luxurious feeling it felt inside, despite the bright colors, balloons and streamers, distracting the eye. Fun was in the air the moment I saw the WEENR license plate and the ketchup red floor with the mustard stream decal, down the center. The detail of the interior is amazing with a hotdog-shaped glove box, stitched Wienermobile logos on the backs of the seats, sun roof, tons of storage for the whistles, footballs, games and gear; it’s the coolest and most comfortable ride you’d want to have. Everybody waves and/or takes a photo as the Wienermobile drives down any road. It is definitely fun to ride “Shotbun”, high above the road, able to see above the traffic to the road beyond. What a great piece of American history the Wienermobiles are and now I’m part of it. Pretty magical. Back to the story…
The Jaywalkers Lodge volunteers were like giddy little kids, (and I should mention, GREAT workers!). We laughed and talked with Tatum and Patrick all the way to Glenwood Springs. I took photos and have captioned them, (if you go into the slide show mode, the captions are visible). I think there were a couple of times Picklin’ Pat had wished he hadn’t handed me the mic to the outdoor P.A. system! Nobody was safe from singing a round of the Oscar Mayer Wiener Hot Dog Song, if they were standing on a corner and/or walking down the street! I had some fun with some people because of that mic!
We got set up fairly quickly at the Catholic Charities building, home of the Glenwood Springs Lift Up food pantry, and parked the Wienermobile on the side street, in full view of rush hour traffic on Grand Avenue. The hungry arrived and the FIRST thing they went for despite great snacks, lemon bars, etc. being on the same table, were the fresh cuts vegetables trays! Person after person related their stories of how hard it was for them to get/afford fresh vegetables and how much they appreciated all the people bringing fresh vegetables. Some of the curiosity seekers who stopped, left for the local store to buy fresh vegetables to donate, when they saw the response of the hungry. One of those families was on vacation and the kids got so into handing out the fresh bananas and tomatoes they purchased. It was amazing to see the light of empathy and compassion shining through their eyes that afternoon. The hungry children, just getting out of school, and meeting their parents at the food pantry, also dove right into the fresh vegetables, telling me they “love fresh vegetables and fruit because we don’t get much of them”.
People I’ve been acquainted with before were among the hungry, having lost their homes to foreclosures, now living under the bridge. At one point, one of the women approached me while I was busy with a radio reporter, to ask if she could take the box of seeds and borrow a pen and paper to take over to a group of 11 homeless people, sitting on the lawn under the large tree. I kept my eye on this group, seeing lively debate every so often, while I was answering several people’s questions re: the Wienermobile, Kraft, hunger relief, planting seeds, etc.
Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, I excused myself and approached the group to find out what they were doing. Turns out they had mapped out a garden and assigned names to the plots and vegetables they would tend to and that a local had donated a one-acre plot if the homeless could plant and tend to the gardens. Problem was, they had no seeds or tools! Now they had seeds. Since then, we got several hardware stores to donate gardening tools and they are finally planting, now that the record high winds and rain over the past 3 months, have subsided in the past few days. I’ll never forget how each of them were trying to tell me how much this would help their spirits and made them feel like they had value and could contribute again. They proudly told me their ambition was to not only feed themselves but provide fresh produce to the soup kitchen and food pantry. I’ll never forget that discussion or how it made me feel to see hope and self-value, restored.
As we were packing up, people kept coming to get food and to donate it. I suddenly felt someone sidle up to me and slip their arm around my waist at the back. I turned to find a woman, looking a little sheepish, explaining that she was the person who had yelled at me on the phone earlier in the day and apologizing for doing so. The woman went on to tell me that she had no idea that the hungry wanted fresh produce so badly and that their food pantry would now welcome fresh produce!
We headed out of Glenwood, me with mic in hand, making a fool of myself, dropped off the volunteers back in Carbondale and I picked up my car. The Wienermobile and I drove up to El Jebel, where they parked in the City Market parking lot, awaiting my unloading of the equipment out of my car, at my house. When I got to my house, Fed-Ex had arrived with my $5000 prize check! I unloaded the car, went back to City Market, asked my store manager if the Wienermobile could park in front of the store for a bit, to which I received a resounding, “Yes!”. All the shop owners came out to take photos and there were crowds of people, just out of the Highway 82 rush hour traffic, ready to get their dinners. We finally left El Jebel around 5:30 p.m., driving in our separate mobiles, up to Aspen where I parked my car, we did a quick tour of Aspen in the Wienermobile, then parked it on First Street to the side of my family’s motel, The Tyrolean Lodge. Tatum and Patrick climbed in my car and we proceeded to drive the 16 miles to the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, the most photographed peaks in Colorado.
The Aspens were changing and the sun was setting as we finally reached Maroon Lake to take some photos. We arrived to the peaks steeped in low cloud cover and the ground cold and damp from the fresh rain. My lens was too long to use in the available light that was left but I did get some photos. We had a nice time there and I’m really glad I got to spend some quality time with the crew, when they were able to relax and take in the beauty of our region.
We were hungry when we got back to Aspen, so we headed to Little Annie’s Eating House, since Patrick knew somebody who had eaten there and liked it. It was a really nice dinner, as we tried bites of each other’s meals, talked about the day, their travels, my hunger-fighting and lots more. I found myself really sad when we finally parted as I felt I had made life-long friends that day, and wanted them to stay longer so I could show them more of this great area of Colorado.
The following morning, I had to be up bright and early to clean all the equipment and get up to Aspen for a live interview on Plum TV Aspen re: my Wienermobile ride. The guys in the studio all grabbed packets of seeds, made sure to give me their contact info and assured me that they would love to run future programs on the progress of both the plant a row to end hunger project and my U.S. tour of food pantries, schools, senior and vet centers, etc. documenting the epic hunger problems going on through video, photos and blogs.
I went on to City Market, wearing my Wienermobile “crown”, passed out seeds there, then went to the bank to deposit my prize check, where I dispensed the remainder of the donated seeds to banks employees and curious customers, all committing to plant a row to end hunger, (PARTEH). Since that day, I’ve educated at least 1600 more people about PARTEH, through a video I shot for Colorado AARP. I’ve also made several cooking videos for the Real Women of Philadelphia, in which I talk about PARTEH and/or my Wienermobile ride, (like this first video!), Inside-Out Creamy Spaghetti, and the Cheesy Peppa Stacks & Caramelized Pork & Asian Slaw Cups, and have encouraged 4 of my neighbors to tear up their back yards, plant gardens with seeds/plants I started for them, and to donate parts of all their rows to the area food pantries.
I’m pretty proud of the accomplishments of the “Good Mood Mission”:
• Our valley’s food pantries now accept fresh produce because of the success of my Oscar Mayer Wienermobile “Good Mood Mission”
• Our valley’s gardeners and residents are now growing a row of food that they’ll donate to the area food pantries and will donate store-bought produce as well to help combat obesity and malnutrition, two sides of the same hunger coin
• Our valley’s parents and children became aware of the hunger problem in our region and are now participating in helping to end hunger by growing their family’s food and food to donate; values and work ethics another outcome
• Our Latino population has become quite involved in growing gardens this year and engaging their churches in local hunger outreach as a result of the radio interview/discussion
• Needy people learned about valuable resources they either didn’t know they qualified for and/or were too ashamed to ask for
• The homeless in Glenwood Springs are now growing a one acre garden, (land donated by a concerned citizen), with the seed packets they grabbed that day with the ambition of not only feeding themselves but supplying the soup kitchen and if it goes far enough, the food pantry. They are SO proud of themselves and this has given them much-needed hope as well as a feeling of they are doing their part in the world.
• People learned for the first time, where the food pantries in our valley are located
• We have a base group of experienced gardeners meeting to help novice gardeners as well as growing the PARTEH program
So… That was my most excellent Wienermobile adventure/”Good Mood Mission”. If you’d like to read a shorter and really cool version of the “Good Mood Mission”, please check out the Hotdogger Blog, to see what Tatum had to say! As Patrick and Tatum would say, “It was a bunderful and franktastic experience”!
I think Kraft Foods has EXCELLENT taste in who they hire to crew their Wienermobiles. I really did end up with good friends in Tatum and Patrick! I’ve heard from Tatum several times, wear a great bracelet she sent me 24/7, and I got to see Patrick again 6 weeks ago when he drove through Glenwood Springs April 4, 2011, at the 19th Street Diner, on his way to San Diego with his new crew mate, Maria! Maria took a photo of me and I captured a parting shot of the Wienermobile, (it’d driven over two, 10,000 foot, slushy passes already that morning!). It was so great to see Patrick again and hoping I see Tatum again, soon. You two are so special and I will never forget our wonderful day together. Wishing you both safe travels and many blessings of abundance as well as to all of you readers of this lengthy first blog.
Thank you so much Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer for this extraordinary experience that has changed so many lives. Thanks also for all the hunger relief initiatives you have undertaken through the Kraft Foundation. You are doing a lot to help Feeding America feed the 50.2 million Americans enduring hunger in the U.S., and I along with many others, appreciate your efforts. (If y’all want to see the hunger statistics, cost of food, etc. in your county, please check out the *cool* NEW Feeding America/Nielsen info-graphic interactive map!)
As for me, I’m off to finish building the FeedTheUS website, and find sponsorship for my U.S. hunger tour so I can hit the road. Although, I’m still hoping to win one more Kraft Foods contest via the Real Women of Philadelphia Season 2 Casting Competition with one of my three desserts, using Philadelphia Cream Cheeses; Pralines & Cream Chocolate Raspberry Cups, Raspberry Glazed Lemon Cream Oat Tartlets, and Cannoli Florentine Cups, so I can start my hunger tour in Savannah, GA and thereafter, each city the hostesses visit. (And hopefully, I’ll get to meet Paula Deen!) I hope y’all will follow my journey…
“If you can’t feed one hundred people, feed just one.” ~ Saint Mother Theresa
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” (via Tatum Risch)