"How can you steal food from a hungry child?"
That's what many people in Nashville, TN, were wondering in late May as local station WTVF-TV aired footage of employees at Feed the Children's Nashville warehouse taking home boxes of food and other goods donated for needy children. (See "Feed The Children, Comdata Stunned by Theft Allegations," http://www.heavytruck.com/hdt/news.html#990527.1794.)
Because of Feed the Children's involvement in the 18 Wheels of Hope food drive, the allegations left sponsor Comdata and other supporters in the trucking industry wondering about the fate of this year's event. After getting input from the rest of the industry, Comdata decided to go ahead with its second annual food drive and festival.
However, because of the negative publicity in Nashville, where last year's event was held, organizers are moving the festivities to Dallas. The 18 Wheels of Hope event will be held in conjunction with the Great American Trucking Show, Sept. 9-11.
Comdata spokeswoman Laura Costello says it appeared the theft at Feed the Children's Nashville distribution center was "an isolated employee event." The company asked for the opinions of organizations such as the American Trucking Assns., the Truckload Carriers Assn. and the truckstop organization NATSO, which have all endorsed 18 Wheels of Hope. Their reaction was positive.
"Larry Jones and Feed the Children have been a member of TCA for a long time," says Lana Batts, president of the Truckload Carriers Assn. "What went on in Nashville does not cause me any concerns about Feed the Children or Larry Jones. It's unfortunate that Larry ended up with some employees that betrayed his trust and that of the contributors."
Feed the Children last year teamed up with Comdata and other trucking industry partners in the 18 Wheels of Hope food drive, which collected 556 truckloads of food and more than $128,000 in donations — enough to feed almost 70 million children. This year's goal is 999 truckloads.
There will be an industry pep rally for 18 Wheels of Hope donors and sponsors Wednesday, Sept. 10, the evening before the Great American Trucking Show begins. At press time, Comdata was working with Dallas authorities to get approval for the convoy. There also will be an 18 Wheels of Hope concert sometime during the show, Costello says.