Anyone who's had cancer touch their lives knows firsthand the day-to-day struggles that come with the disease. After watching a good friend fight cancer, Jennifer Caraway founded a nonprofit organization to help homebound Valley cancer patients by delivering meals.
Two local chefs, Tracy Dempsey and Bernie Kantak, sit on the organization's board of directors and Crooked Sky Farms makes a weekly donation of fresh produce.
Caraway says The Joy Bus, named for the friend she lost, aims to relieve some of the burden from families and honor her friend's legacy of determination and compassion.
"We started realizing that there are a lot of people that don't have the support system she had," says Caraway.
Carraway has been working in restaurants since age 15 doing everything from waiting tables to washing dishes, though she's also been a general manager and owner in the past.
She began down the path that would eventually lead her to The Joy Bus in a very simple way -- by cooking meals for her friend, Joy.
She founded the nonprofit in 2011 and says she's grateful she was able to tell her dear friend about the project before she passed away.
Though she had no experience with nonprofits in the past, she now manages 11 patients all over the Phoenix area, delivering multiple meals during the lunch hour. She says the work is extremely rewarding but hasn't been easy. Luckily, she gets a weekly donation of produce from Crooked Sky Farms -- though the ever-rising gas prices have become a worry of late.
"I don't know other how nonprofits make it, " she says. "I'm just trying to keep up with demand at this point."
Caraway says with pride that the Joy Bus isn't just about providing meals to those in need. It's a mission to bring "real food" to patients and to provide a hug and smile when times get tough.
"They are the nicest people!" she says from the road.
Caraway adds that she's always looking for volunteers to help in the kitchen, preparing meals, as well as helping to deliver. Those interested can contact the Joy Bus through the Joy Bus website.
You can also make donations to the nonprofit at their Indiegogo page. The organization is raising funds to buy a Joy Bus van and hopes in the future to have a kitchen to call their own.