A lot is happening this summer for The Joy Bus, the local nonprofit organization that delivers free meals to home-bound cancer patients. The foundation's Joy Bus Diner is scheduled to open in July, creating a home-base kitchen for founder Jennifer Caraway and about 20 volunteers, and all proceeds will go toward the foundation's free meal program. What’s more, the diner will also open for breakfast, lunch, and free cooking classes.
The Joy Bus started five years ago as a free meal-delivery program Caraway operated on her own. Today, the program provides meals that are delivered to patients by a volunteer who also sits and visits with the patient.
“Our volunteers just take ownership of this,” Caraway says, “It’s so rad.” Volunteers also offer a rundown of the nutritional benefits of the food in each bag. “We’re trying to give [patients] a little education with each bag,” Caraway says.
The idea will cover more ground when the diner’s up and running, when Caraway is able to start offering free healthy cooking classes at night for patients.
Final steps to getting the doors open to the public include installing fire systems, getting the gas turned on, finding and training a breakfast team, and passing the health inspection. Caraway has been hard at work for months trying to open a restaurant on strictly donations and volunteers, which would have been impossible but for the foundation's many friends around town.
Caraway signed the lease on the former Subway restaurant in November 2015, and since then, Fox Restaurant Concepts has offered its interior designer’s services and donated tables and chairs, while G4 Builders in Scottsdale has been assisting with the kitchen setup.
“Between Sam Fox and the G4 Builders … I don’t know how the heck we would have gotten this far without them,” Caraway says. “So lucky.”
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The Joy Bus also operates with the help of monthly sponsors, including Tracy Dempsey Originals and Venezia's Pizzeria, on top of donations. And as before, produce will be donated by Crooked Sky Farms, seafood by Santa Monica Seafood, and poultry by Red Bird Farms Co.
"My goal is to open more locations,” Caraway says. “Go to the East Valley, the West Valley – putting them everywhere so we can service at least 50 families.”