On the morning of July 8, 2016, news cameras gathered outside the Dallas Police Department’s downtown headquarters following the deadly police shootings that shocked the country the previous night. Amid the frenzy, a brightly painted food truck and purveyor of grilled cheese sandwiches—Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe—scooted past the barricades and crime scene tape to feed officers who had worked through the night after the tragedy.
“We were their nourishment for that morning,” says Ashlee Hunt Kleinert, owner of Ruthie’s. “When you feel helpless, a lot of times what you do is bring a meal. The beauty of a food truck is that we’re a restaurant on wheels—we can get up and go.”
While serving warm bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, Ruthie’s team members also offered hugs and words of appreciation to the officers—and their heartfelt gestures didn’t go unnoticed. “It really showed us how much they cared about us and how much they mourned with us,” says Officer Kimberly Mraz. “The officers felt that and really appreciated the support.”
Labor of love
While the program formally launched this year, Ruthie’s has been surprising women in homeless shelters, passengers at a bus station, military veterans and many other groups over the years. “You can do little things to brighten someone’s day,” Ashlee says. “When your day is brightened, hopefully it carries forward and the person who is affected treats somebody else differently, and it continues. It’s just spreading a little bit of sunshine.”
Just ask Jeff Hensley, former Navy fighter pilot and director of clinical and veteran services at Equest, which provides equine therapy for special needs populations. A couple of years ago, Ruthie’s surprised one of the graduating classes of Equest’s Hooves for Heroes, a program designed for military veterans and their families.
“This kind of thing restores my faith in other people and reminds me that at our core, we really are all connected,” Jeff says.