Food for the truckers’ soul

At times of crisis, truckers are invariably among the first and most generous to respond. Take, for example, Oregon trucker Matt Streeter. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Streeter and his daughters Tessa, 7, and Sierra, 11, were watching the nightly news, heartsick over the devastation.

“My kids felt compelled to try and do something,” Streeter says. Tessa’s solution was to load up the car with food and drive to New Orleans. “I explained to her that one carload of food wasn’t going to cut it. She said: ‘You have a truck. You can haul more than a carload of food.'”

Tessa’s words nagged at Streeter throughout the next day. “Why couldn’t we put together a truckload of food and take it down there?” wondered Streeter, who owns eight trucks. He talked to friends in tiny Tillamook, Ore. “They were immediately ready to help,” he says. By Wednesday, one of Streeter’s refrigerated trailers was stuffed with donated food and “whatever we could fit in the truck,” Streeter says.

Streeter and his driver, Eric Blom, quickly realized they didn’t know where they would drop the goods. Blom’s Seventh-day Adventist church stepped in, helping them contact relief shelters in Louisiana. “Once we got there, we found out where our stuff could best be used,” Streeter says. They made drops at temporary shelters, a warehouse and a food bank, among other locations. The trip there and back took eight days.

“Before I got home from the first trip we had a whole other truckload,” Streeter says. The response was so overwhelming that Streeter and his wife, Meagan, had to find a warehouse and enlist friends to sort, box and label everything. The second truckload left Sept. 14.

Through their selfless acts of kindness, Matt Streeter and his family exemplify the spirit that makes America great. Like many others in trucking, they’ve given of their time and often limited resources to help others in need. Streeter donated the truck, labor and some of the costs, including fuel, for the first load, despite the fact that he describes his business as “not financially sound to begin with.”

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Nevertheless, he and his family are trying to collect enough donations to cover the costs of their second trip, and they may not stop there. “When we get caught up we’ll look at doing another one,” Streeter says.

And so from a 7-year-old’s pure-hearted desire to help people in need grew a community-wide relief effort – one that, as with most such achievements, wouldn’t be possible without truckers.