Evie Russell drove a truck for 12 years before having kids and joining The Salvation Army. That’s why she had such a strong reaction when she heard that some truck drivers were being turned away from restaurants or having a hard time finding a place to eat as they helped deliver essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic.

Evie is the Service Center Coordinator for The Salvation Army in Cortez, Colorado—a hub along major routes for the supply chain.

It was her idea for Operation Thank a Trucker—a partnership between The Salvation Army and Ute Coffee Shop near the intersection of Highways 160 and 491. 

Now truck drivers can stop at the coffee shop and choose from select items on the breakfast or lunch menus, like a giant breakfast burrito or a Bison Burger, and have a free, hot meal—and a little bit of interaction.

Evie and other volunteers have also packed about 1,000 snack bags that they’re handing out to drivers as they come through the area.

She’s on the show to share more about it, how she’s helping in the midst of COVID-19 and what she is seeing from the frontlines of service.

Show highlights include:

  • Who is Evie Russell: Former truck driver who is now Service Center Coordinator for Cortez, Colorado, Salvation Army
  • Why they are helping truck drivers: During community outreach, found that a lot of truck drivers were not getting hot meals 
  • How they helped: Created snack bags and received donations for meals
  • How they alerted truckers: People held up signs, put on trucker sites, Facebook
  • Response from truckers: Extremely grateful
  • What Cortez area is like: Little farming community in middle of nowhere
  • Why this was an important project right now: Provide moral support
  • Community support: Community is helping by donating checks and bringing supplies
  • Dealing with stress of situation: Know that as a community they will always pull through
  • Example of community kindness: Stranger helping elderly woman shop, donation of TV trays, toilet paper

Good words from Evie Russell in this show:

“I noticed a lot of the truck drivers stating that they weren’t able to get a hot meal…they wouldn’t let them go through the drive-thru because they had to walk through and they couldn’t take their trucks. As an ex-truck driver myself, that hit home.”

“They can’t sit there and eat, of course, with social distancing, but they can come in and have that little bit of interaction. That interaction with human contact that’s not just your shipper or receiver has been a big thing.”

“We got a letter from one of the truck drivers that he had stopped in and got a meal, and he’s a manly man, but it really hit him and brought tears to his eyes that somebody actually cared.”

“Even though this is a hard time, I know I can go to The Salvation Army and get some assistance if needed.”

“We’ve been through a lot in our community. We’ve been through droughts, we’ve been through a lot of stuff that other communities may not have to deal with, and we’ve always come through. We always pull together as a community and things get better.”

Additional resources:

Download this episode wherever you get your podcasts. Find show notes for this episode and more at caringmagazine.org/podcast. Connect with Evie Russell via the Cortez Service Center

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