Doughnut-Filled “Streatcar” To Support Foster Care System

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Eat a doughnut. Change the world. That's what Kim Carver, a bank vice president, and District: Donuts.Sliders.Brew owners Chris Audler, Aaron Vogel, and Stephen Cali of New Orleans intend to do as they debut in May the District Streatcar supporting foster care parenting for the thousands of children in Louisiana's foster care system. Vogel said that District Streatcar is misspelled for a reason, "with eat in the name."

         The District Streatcar, a passenger bus that outside looks like a streetcar but inside is a kitchen, will travel to parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other events, to provide onsite the doughnuts, "sliders" or mini-burgers, and coffee made popular at District: Donuts.Sliders.Brew.

         Profits will benefit Crossroads NOLA, a faith-based nonprofit for the development of a citywide foster care and adoption initiative in partnership with First Baptist Church. The food truck will be available mid-May for booking.

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         Together, Crossroads NOLA and District Donuts formed the initiative, WeDon'tServeKids, a play on words highlighting the need for foster care parents and that answers with "But, we think that should change."

         Using a food truck to support a foster care initiative met with skepticism at first, Carver said. "Everybody told me it was a spectacularly awful idea," Carver said. "But I couldn't let it go."

         The journey began when Carver, with wife, Kristyn, attended a weekend event of Show Hope, an adoption support organization founded by recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and wife Mary Beth Chapman. Kim and Kristyn Carver, the parents of three adopted daughters, are in process of certification as foster parents.

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         Carver said they learned that weekend of Show Hope's Red Bus Project, a British double-decker bus converted to a thrift store that travels onto college campuses to raise awareness for orphan care. The event challenged participants to change the world, asking, "What will be your Red Bus Project?"

         The question kept him up at night, Carver said. While eating at Café Reconcile, a non-profit providing culinary training to youth communities, the idea hit him.

         "This is what I need," Carver said. "I need people to eat lunch for a purpose."

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         Friends put Carver in touch with Audler before District Donuts opened 20 months ago. Audler loved the idea, Carver said. "He was the first to not say 'no,'" Carver said.

         The food truck idea took shape when Guy Williams, Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Co. president and CEO and Carver's employer, donated the bank's streetcar-bus used at fairs and promotional events. Carver raised the more than $30,000 needed to gut the inside and install cooking facilities.

         "Our vision really aligned with (Carver's) vision," Vogel said. "We had some goals at the front end to partner with our community, and in-house as well, with our staff and guests."

         "Turn profits, change lives" is the motto of TurnChange, the parent company of District Donuts and a second shop, District Hand Pie and Coffee Bar. Vogel said the partnership with Crossroads NOLA provided a connection the company was looking for to serve a group "that didn't serve us by buying our products."

         Currently in the foster parent certification process, Vogel and his wife are the parents of four children. Vogel said they hope to someday adopt.

         "It's a great vision on (Carver's) part," Vogel said. "Once we connected with him, it was something we really wanted to do."

         Carver said the food truck will support foster care parents at a time when the need for loving homes is great. "This is an exciting way to address a tough problem," Carver said. "I'm excited about the future."

         – by AP Reporter Marilyn Stewart with Times-Picayune

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