Hope on Wheels

Phoenix food truck serves up more than just meals to the Valley’s homeless.

For Krysten Aldridge of Mesa, what began five years ago as a philanthropic event to feed the homeless has blossomed into a full-time mission of what she calls “spiritual archeology” to better understand the transformative power of giving back.

In 2010, Aldridge and a team of 20 other volunteers distributed turkey sandwiches to more than 300 hungry people in downtown Phoenix on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That day, Aldridge experienced firsthand how true love can change someone’s life forever and realized that creating an organization focused on helping others was her calling.

In January 2013, Aldridge officially launched ONe TRUe LOVe (OTL), a nonprofit organization and food truck that provides prepared meals for those who typically can’t afford to dine at restaurants.

Aldridge, who has a background in restaurant management, sponsors two main activities each month in downtown Phoenix. One is a themed giveaway of food, pet food and hygiene items. In October, the themed event was a “Halloweenie” roast. With the support of local businesses, nearly 900 meals were served in three hours near the intersection of 12th Avenue and Madison Street. The other sponsored activity is a food rescue event that involves preparing perfectly good food items that are approaching their “best by” or “use by” dates into a feature menu for the food truck. Aldridge collects the food items from local grocers and supermarkets.

The food rescue events “offer a dignified restaurant experience,” Aldridge says. About 130 meals are served from the food truck parked near places like Margaret T. Hance Park or the lawn of the Arizona State Capitol.

“People don’t always want free stuff,” says Aldridge, who continues to serve hundreds of turkey sandwiches every year on the day after Thanksgiving. “They’ll frequently offer us a dollar or two for the food they’re served.”

Aldridge, who is a National Bank of Arizona (NB|AZ) customer, raises money for her organization’s activities by selling “the best organic lemonade you’ve ever had” at foodie events in Scottsdale, Ahwatukee and Gilbert.

“The lemonade is keeping us afloat,” she explains, “but it’s not as sustainable as I’d like it to be. Fundraising isn’t something I’ve done before.”
Through a friend, she recently connected with NB|AZ Vice Chairman Deborah Bateman, who mentors emerging businesswomen throughout the valley.

“One of my biggest blessings is having people like Deborah in my life. She is helping me go beyond where we are with our operations,” Aldridge says.

NB|AZ also hosted a grant-writing workshop for nonprofit business owners like Aldridge, who says she greatly appreciates the staff at her NB|AZ branch in Mesa. They all know her and whenever they see her, they ask how her organization is doing.

“Krysten is an incredibly gifted young woman who has a heart that is unparalleled,” Bateman says. “Without a doubt, she is a source of light and inspiration.”

Through guidance from Bateman, Aldridge hopes to expand her organization in 2016 and beyond.
“I’d like to be Arizona-wide in 2016,” she says. “And the big dream is to eventually be in every city that has a need.”

Story by Debra Gelbart
Photo by Mark Lipczynski

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