Browsing Category: 25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope

The truck that started the Convoy

Hope is often thought of as something one cannot see, but many people have seen hope in the form of a Convoy of Hope truck driving towards a community in need.

“I was driving down the street … and these big, monster Convoy of Hope trucks drove right by me,” said Julian Toriz about passing the trucks on his way to a Community Event in Los Angeles. “Three big trucks — boom, boom, boom. I got out my camera. I’m trying to drive and I’m like, ‘I got to document this.’”

Today Convoy has a fleet of tractor trailers, and equipment.

It all started, though, with just one tractor trailer.

An incredible gift

When Hal Donaldson entered a business luncheon in 1997, trucks weren’t on his mind. He was there to speak about taking care of the poor. So it came as a surprise when he was approached by David Cribbs, businessman, who asked Hal to pay him a visit.

When the two met, David got right to the point.  He offered to buy an 18-wheeler tractor trailer and provide fuel, maintenance and a driver for a year.

Owning our own truck revolutionized the way we help people.  We were able to ensure we offered the best products to the honored guests at our Community Events.

The generous donation of that first truck opened incredible new doors for Convoy of Hope. Years later, David Cribbs continues to serve the organization as a member of the Board of Directors.

David remembers the first time he drove that first truck to an event. Pulling up around 2:30 a.m., there were already more than 1,000 people waiting for the truck to arrive — “That’s when I thought this may be bigger than I’d imagined,” David says.

Today, Convoy’s fleet of trucks continues to deliver hope to millions of people around the world. From Community Events to disaster responses, when people see a Convoy of Hope truck, it’s a symbol of hope and sign that help is on it’s way.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope

Four Hurricanes that changed Convoy of Hope

On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley barreled into Florida’s western coast as a Category 4 storm. Convoy of Hope was ahead of the storm, sending its one and only Disaster Response team. They were on the ground the same day the storm made landfall — setting up a point of distribution (POD), assisting those affected by the storm.

Eleven days later, another storm started brewing in the Atlantic Ocean — one that would become Hurricane Frances. It struck the eastern side of Florida as a Category 2 storm on September 5. Convoy called for reinforcements and began sending supplies to assist survivors on the other side of the state.

A couple weeks later, on September 16, Hurricane Ivan struck the Pensacola area of northwestern Florida.

And ten days after that, Hurricane Jeanne made landfall on Florida’s east coast where Hurricane Frances had struck less than two months before.

Four hurricanes in six weeks.

Randy Rich is a 25-year Convoy veteran and currently serves as our Vice President of Administration. He was sent with the reinforcement teams who responded to both Hurricanes Charley and Jeanne. “It was like Groundhog Day,” he says. “During our response to Hurricane Jeanne, we set up a POD in the exact same parking lot as we did during Frances.”

At the time, Convoy would arrive as quickly as possible after the disaster, set up a POD, and serve for about a week. The 2004 hurricane season demanded that the team be in full-on disaster relief mode for nearly two months straight. To provide some context, in 2003 Convoy distributed approximately 300 tractor-trailer loads altogether. In that period of 53 days in 2004, the response teams distributed 169 loads. The response even warranted a site visit from then President George W. Bush.

To say the team was stretched thin would be an understatement. But Convoy has never been afraid to lean into the difficulties surrounding a disaster response. Everyone on staff stepped up and did what they could, regardless of whether or not it was part of their job description. Supply Chain workers traveled to Florida to assist in relief work, Community Events personnel helped with distribution, and they depended on the incredible generosity and kindness of local volunteers in Florida to make our PODs flow smoothly.

“That hurricane season really helped us develop the POD concept,” says Randy. “Working through the concept of setting up a distribution hub that could service other neighborhoods and communities … all of that was developed further during those four hurricanes.”

Randy also remembers the human toll such an intense hurricane season had on the residents of Florida. He recalls seeing an elderly couple pulled up to the POD he was working at. With tears in his eyes, he recounts how desperate they looked — “They were probably going to sleep in their car that night.”

Convoy of Hope understands that hurricanes, like all natural disasters, affect everyone in their paths. It doesn’t matter who someone is, what job they have, or where they live — everyone needs to be told there’s hope and that they’re loved during those dark moments.

That’s what Convoy has been doing for 25 years, and with the help of friends like you, that’s what we’ll continue to do for decades to come.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Disaster Services

Founder’s Story

Hal, the oldest child at age 12, watched his mom frantically wrangle everyone into the car. After all, she knew it wasn’t ideal for the pastor and his wife to show up late to their own church business meeting. But just as they were peeling out of the neighborhood, they glimpsed the babysitter in the rearview mirror.

Deciding it would be better to show up late rather than with four rambunctious children, they turned around and let the kids pile out.

Later that night, there was a knock at the door. The babysitter answered to find two uniformed police officers with news: their parents’ car had been hit head-on by a drunk driver. Their dad was dead, and their mom was fighting for her life.

After months in the hospital, Hal’s mom returned home and starting work to support the family. The kids knew she worked as hard as she could, but the family still had to rely on food stamps and the generosity of others. In high school, Hal got a job pumping gas and changing tires to help support the family.

After graduation, he landed a job at Dow Chemical, where he worked while pursuing his degree in journalism. He wanted to succeed and develop his talents as a writer, so when an opportunity to write books opened up — fresh out of college — he jumped at the chance. He was determined to build a successful career and leave the poverty he had once known far behind. Each year he encountered new opportunities and became more and more preoccupied with a quest for personal success.

That is, until his travels brought him face to face with the homeless, starving, and destitute around the world.

A writing assignment eventually took him to Kolkata, India, where he was faced with what can only be described as the epitome of poverty and desperation. On his third trip to the city, he was taken to meet none other than Mother Teresa herself for an interview. Once face-to-face, she asked him one simple question: “Young man, what are you doing to help the poor and the suffering?”

Confronted with a question he was never prepared to answer, Hal paused. He couldn’t lie, but he hated the truth.

“I’m not doing much of anything,” he replied. Her response was even simpler than the question:  “Everyone can do something.”

No longer able to escape the guilt of sitting on his hands while the world suffered, he returned home to California, loaded a pickup truck with groceries and supplies, and distributed them to families in need.

That was the beginning of Convoy of Hope.  

Now, 25 years later, more than 100 million people have been served in more than 115 countries. Through community events, families are getting free haircuts, groceries, and family portraits. In the wake of disasters, communities are finding emergency relief and recovery support. Internationally, there are agriculture, women’s empowerment, and children’s feeding programs working to break cycles of poverty forever. Every effort centers around spreading one simple thing: hope.

Hal’s decision to pursue a life of generosity and kindness has grown into much more than an organization. It’s a movement that’s changing the world. It’s a movement of kindness that declares everyone can do something, and if we can do something, we must.

Caring for widows and orphans has never been optional. We have a mission. Convoy is just the vehicle — a way for all of us to link arms and do the next kind thing in front of us.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope