‘Christmas miracle’: Bean’s Cafe receives surprise donation of thousands of pounds of food after semi-truck crashes

Published: Dec. 24, 2020 at 9:32 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Bean’s Cafe and Children’s Lunchbox CEO Lisa Sauder was out of the office on Christmas Eve when she got a call on her cellphone; a semi-truck carrying groceries to the valley had crashed, and a friend wanted to know if the nonprofit would take around 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of the recovered food.

“We were just about out of fresh produce,” Sauder said. “This time of year, fresh produce gets harder and harder for us to get and so to be given this gift of produce that we can be given right away for meals… it’s gonna help so many people. It really is kind of a little bit of a Christmas miracle.”

The semi-truck was en route from Portland transporting everything a grocery store would normally carry: chicken, eggs, vegetables, hamburgers, strawberries and more. But on Wednesday, Vulcan Towing got a call that the vehicle was stuck in a ditch near Chickaloon. No one was injured, but the food was no longer viable for commercial use.

Justin Creech, the owner of Vulcan Towing and Recovery, said around 18 people with his company worked until Thursday morning trying to salvage the food, unloading it from the crashed semi into a trailer. Through another friend, Vulcan Towing was able to contact Bean’s Cafe and ask if they would be willing to take the large donation.

Sauder said the donation is coming at a time when even more people are expressing a need for food due to the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve never seen this kind of demand or need and we are daily hearing from people who have never been in this position of not knowing how they’re going to feed their kids or where they’re going to sleep tonight,” Sauder said.

Every day, Bean’s Cafe feeds around 700 to 800 people up to three meals at Sullivan Arena and several other non-congregate centers. The donation they received on Thursday could potentially last the organization up to three weeks, Food Service Director for Bean’s Cafe Scott Lingle said.

“The important thing about it is it’s not so much the quantity of food, it’s the type of food,” Lingle said. “There’s a lot of very fresh vegetables, very fresh fruits.”

Since the donation was so large, Bean’s Cafe needed to find a place that could unload and store all of the nearly 40,000 pounds of food. Sauder says several businesses in Anchorage including Costco, Charlie’s Produce and Great Alaska Pizza Company offered to come help unload the donation at Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center, even on Christmas Eve.

Creech had his family members help unload the donation. This Christmas is the first one the Vulcan Towing family will have without Hans Michael Moore, a Vulcan driver who was killed in a collision while on the job. Moore was Creech’s father-in-law, and helping provide the donation to Bean’s Cafe is something his father-in-law “would have loved to be a part of.”

“I’ve got my kids down here, and it’s not always about giving gifts,” Creech said. “It’s not always about that. It’s about giving back to our community and it’s a wonderful deal. We’re super blessed to be able to do this.”

The holiday season is normally a busy time of year for the Dena’ina Center, but because of the gathering restrictions due to the pandemic, General Manager Greg Spears said the center happened to have freezer and cooling space available to temporarily hold the donation for Bean’s Cafe.

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