[EDITOR'S NOTE — Difference Makers articles share stories of the local heroes making a difference during the extraordinary times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This section is made possible by Eastwood Mall and named in honor of Mark Eckert, who made a difference in the Mahoning Valley.]
AUSTINTOWN — More than 250 boxes of goods were handed off to those in need Sunday at the Quaker Steak & Lube in Austintown.
Dick Frost and the Chicken Coupe Cruisers have coordinated regular cruise-ins and charity drives at the Patriot Boulevard eatery for almost 14 years, often for needy children, he said.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic delivering grim headlines each day, Frost said he started wondering what he could do for families.
For weeks, the Cruisers collected donations of canned goods and other non-perishables, toiletries and other paper products, which lined the Lube's patio area, turning it into a "little grocery store," he said.
"We've been friends since we were kids. It's pretty heartfelt — you watch these guys out here with their masks on, wiping down groceries and checking dates," he told Mahoning Matters days before the Sunday giveaway. "Everybody's getting a kick out of watching the grocery store inside the Lube grow."
Donations rolled in from local grocers like Rulli Bros., the Cornersburg Sparkle Market in Youngstown, Macali's Giant Eagle in Niles and Giannios Candy Co. of Struthers — which donated 56 large chocolate Easter eggs — as well as from citizens, who also chipped in at least $3,000 in cash and checks.
All told, the Cruisers gave away about $8,000 in groceries on Sunday at the Lube — "a wonderful success," Frost said. Volunteers packed some boxes into residents cars Sunday as they did their own cruise-in to the Lube, and delivered others to church organizations, he said.
"We touched a bunch of people today," Frost said.
When asked what he would like to say to his fellow Valley residents now weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, Frost kept it simple:
"God bless and be safe."