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Meet Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus in North Phoenix

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Caraway.

Jennifer, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The Joy Bus was created in honor of my friend Joy Seitz-Butz. Joy’s determination and calm inspiration throughout her battle with ovarian cancer drove me to want to make a difference. I wanted to reach out and provide comfort to those without the same support system as Joy the only way I knew how: with food! Our organization was created and aptly named The Joy Bus.

The Joy Bus employees is a mix of paid staff as well as volunteer that deliver healthy, homemade meals to cancer patients and their families each week, while operating a full service restaurant. As much as possible, we use fresh, organic, locally-sourced ingredients and we prepare meals to order to meet the dietary needs of each person. We opened The Joy Bus Diner in 2016, a hybrid social entrepreneurship which not only provides us with the much needed kitchen for our patient meals but will hopefully cover our operating costs as a non-profit. Since the opening of our diner doors, our meal delivery program has quadrupled in size.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been a very bumpy road getting to this point. As easy as starting a non-profit may seem (HA!!!), it has been extremely difficult getting to where we are today. We pursued several local farmers in an attempt to get local produce donated for our patient meals. We were denied on more than 10 occasions, until that is, we met Farmer Frank Martin of Crooked Sky Farms. Farmer Frank now (7 years later) donates to not only our patient meals but to the diner as well, helping us to generate much needed revenue for our programs. There were not any services similar to ours that I knew of, so creating such a unique organization took a LOT of work. Meanwhile, I was working 3 jobs and raising two kids on my own. I was always extremely passionate about our mission, it was convincing others that it was a great idea that took some time and finding the time to balance everything for the good of our growth. Four years after the inception of The Joy Bus, I was able to leave my other jobs and take on our mission full time.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Joy Bus – what should we know?
It is a heartbreaking reality that many cancer patients in Phoenix are left without a strong support system during the stresses of cancer diagnosis/treatment, and even for those with families, it is a time of extreme physical and mental stress. Cancer wreaks havoc on the body, often leaving patients weak, sick, and unable to care for themselves through the preparation of healthy meals. The Joy Bus Meal Delivery Program uniquely meets the crucial needs for social support and proper nutrition after a cancer diagnosis. We are the ONLY organization of our kind in Arizona working diligently to improve the quality of life of homebound cancer patients by not only providing delicious, healthful food but also personal attention, companionship, and education on the healing power of food. Through partnerships with community organizations, The Joy Bus Meal Delivery Program delivers a freshly prepared meal to homebound cancer patients each week in eco-friendly and chemical free packaging with the help of an amazing group of compassionate volunteers.

What most definitely sets us apart from other meal delivery services (apart from the zero cost to our clients) is our volunteers. My vision was to heal with food but our volunteers saw the huge need for a companionship aspect to our deliveries. Thankfully they (the volunteers) took ownership of our mission and morphed my idea into something more amazing than I had ever envisioned. By adding a companionship aspect to our service we are not only providing a much needed well check to the client but showing the client that the community truly does care about their wellbeing. Our volunteers build unbreakable bonds with our clients a part from delivering nutritious organic meals each week.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
The Arizona restaurant industry has been vital to our successful growth. So many local restaurants have not only prepared meals for our patients but helped raise much needed funds for our programs through our Restaurant Community Program. Such local talents (and even James Beard Nominated Chefs) like Charleen Badman of FnB, Tracy Dempsey of TDO’s, Gio Osso of Virtu and Keenan Bosworth of Pig and Pickle are just a few of those who have spearheaded the program. The acceptance and support from this industry has been crucial to our mission.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Debby Wolvos

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