More than a meal: How the Joy Bus created a community through food
November 18, 2021
As aninsurance company new to Arizona, we're committed to highlighting the organizations and individuals found in communities making a difference to get good going. One of those organizations—The Joy Bus, a local Phoenix nonprofit, is dedicated to helping those who need it most. In a conversation with Megan Norton, program director of The Joy Bus, we spoke of the nonprofit's efforts to build a community through food.
How Joy inspired The Joy Bus
Q: Where did The Joy Bus come from?
A: The founder of The Joy Bus, Jennifer Caraway, had a good friend named Joy who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (a pretty aggressive form) in 2011. As a chef and someone who grew up in the restaurant industry (she started at the age of 15 washing dishes), Jennifer realized that a great way to show her friend love was to bring her food and make sure she was eating well. Joy thankfully had a great support system, but it hit home with Jennifer that this is not always the case with many other cancer patients. Though Joy eventually passed from cancer, the experience inspired Jennifer to create The Joy Bus.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about its early beginnings?
A: Jennifer started as just a one-woman show in 2011, delivering meals to two patients in the Phoenix area—and we've just grown from there. In 2016, Jennifer approached the board to develop The Joy Bus as a social entrepreneurship model where we can make money that goes back into the organization and be self-sustaining.
"Whatever door Jennifer has to knock on, she'll make it happen. She is a hustler at heart, and this is what she does. She loves her people and her community."
That's where The Joy Bus Diner came from. In 2016, we opened the diner and served the public continuous meals for lunch and dinner. Every single cent earned at the restaurant goes back to supporting The Joy Bus meal delivery program for cancer patients. We never charge any of our patients for meal delivery services.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to close the diner last year. Even then, there was no pause for meals for our patients. We grew, rallied and made things happen. And I'm happy to say that as of early October , The Joy Bus Diner is back and open to the public for breakfast and lunch.
Q: What are the goals The Joy Bus has now and in the future?
A: On a small level, we're looking at the quality of life—we want to keep spirits up. It's so important that people who are going through cancer keep their spirits and morale up if they have any hope of being successful in treatment.
We're also working on getting into a bigger location. We want to implement an organic pantry where people affected by cancer (including family members) can come in and get what they need to create nutritious meals at home, complementing our meal delivery days.
Q: How has the community played a role in The Joy Bus?
A: A really big component of our meal delivery program is the companionship aspect. We encourage our volunteers to get to know our patients and families. They [our volunteers] will stay with patients for 30 minutes to an hour after delivering the meal to chat with them and provide companionship. We have some amazing volunteers who have hung curtains and taken out the trash—they see a need, and they help.
The joy for us is providing that element. It's amazing because it's another added level of care, and it is a form of treatment. Thankfully, through emergency funding that became available during COVID and the amazing people who stepped up with private donations and grants, our community made it [meal deliveries] happen. It did.
Right now, it's so easy to become jaded with the world, stop believing in people, and start thinking that everything's just bad and nobody cares anymore. But every single day with The Joy Bus, I'm reminded that there are still people that care and want nothing in return. We have the most amazing community of supporters. They show up every single time we need them, and it's out of the goodness of their heart. They want to see their neighbors cared for and loved. It's a reminder that there is so much good in the world.
It's incredible how a community can rally together and make a difference. Thank you to the folks at The Joy Bus for the meaningful conversation with our HiRoad® team. If you want to know more about this fantastic nonprofit and how they're making an effort to get good going, visit them here.The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with HiRoad®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. HiRoad is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. HiRoad makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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