Food Trucks Nourishing Community along with Customers
Nov 29, 2019 12:19PM
By Kathleen Ganster
Photo courtesy Mission Mahi
Tacos, hotdogs, cookies, ice cream and coffee drinks of all sorts. Food trucks have popped up all over the region, but some offer more than tantalizing food and drinks—they offer hope for others.
Mission Mahi gives what owner Jimmy Woods knows others may need; a way out of their addictions or alcoholism.
“Honestly, I feel this is why I was saved from the living hell that I was in—to help others get out of theirs,” Woods said about the reason for starting the food truck in May of 2015. Woods, a former addict and alcoholic, nearly died before he started Mission Mahi. He now hires those who are in recovery for both his food truck and Mission Mahi Café, a brick and mortar location in Cranberry.
“Everyone deserves a second chance, and this is a way that they can get it,” he said of his employees. He will make room at the truck or café for someone in recovery who needs a job.
Both the truck and the café specialize in tacos, especially the original fish taco that Woods featured on the truck in his early days. The truck travels to various locations, with Woods and other employees often dispensing advice to others in recovery along the way.
Woods also gives presentations about addiction and alcoholism, especially enjoying his guest “teaching” stints for the Seneca Valley School District where he talks to health classes during their addiction units.
“I talk to the students about warning signs; things that I didn’t recognize in myself,” he said. “I love it.”
A couple of times a month, Woods invites teens from Ridgeview Recovery to the café to reward them for their efforts of working toward a better life. “We are closed on Mondays, so we welcome them in, feed them and talk to them,” Woods explained.
While Woods is giving hope to others, it also helps him.
“It enables me to hold onto sobriety. It reminds me where I came from and connects me to others. We all need to give back,” he said.
To find out where the Mission Mahi food truck will be, follow their Facebook page or visit https://www.missionmahi.com.
Jaime Dean and her daughter, Abigail, wanted to give back to veterans and military personnel. Dean had worked with a veterans’ initiative at Memorial Park Church, which she attends, and has strong military family ties. In April 2018, she and her daughter decided to take it one step further.
“We wanted to reach out and support as many members of the military community as we could directly and indirectly through our truck. We also wanted to help bridge the military/civilian gap,” the Marshall Township resident said.
By the Wayside Coffee has a military theme and often travels to events geared toward veterans and active military personnel. They offer specialty coffees using beans provided by a veteran-owned business, as well as frozen drinks, smoothies and small food items.
“We offer anything a whole coffee café offers; cold brewed, lattes, cappuccinos, teas, those sorts of things,” Dean said.
By the Wayside donates 10 percent of their sales to their veteran nonprofit mission partners and members of the military community. Military members and first responders receive free coffees at the truck and discounts on specialty drinks.
They also help fundraise by attending events sponsored by their partners, and they sponsor several events serving the military each year including a Veterans Day breakfast partnering with Memorial Park Church.
“We believe that veterans deserve the support, appreciation and connection with the communities in which they live,” Dean said.
By the Wayside is typically located in the North Hills during the week and at special events throughout the city on the weekends. Followers can check their Facebook, Instagram and Mobile Nom apps for current location and schedule, or visit https://www.bythewaysidecoffee.com.
Nicole Waltenbaugh has always had a soft spot for animals, saving her money as a young child to assist animal rescue efforts. Waltenbaugh decided to open a coffee shop and couple that idea with her passion for animal rescue by creating Curly Tail Coffee. In 2015, Waltenbaugh started roasting coffee and opened an online shop to raise funds for animal rescue organizations. In 2017, she expanded to a food trailer.
The name comes from Waltenbaugh’s love of pugs; she and her husband have three pugs, plus another curly tailed animal—a pig. She has a coffee roast named after each pet.
“The online store sells freshly roasted coffee by the bag and then I sell cups of coffee, lattes, chai tea and cocoa on the trailer,” she said. One dollar of each bag of coffee sold is donated to an animal rescue.
“I mainly donate to local shelters and rescues, but I also feature a different rescue each month that can be anywhere in the U.S.,” Waltenbaugh said. In the past few years, Waltenbaugh has donated more than $10,000 to animal organizations.
“I wasn't sure if my little business idea would be successful or not, but I'm sure glad that I gave it a shot,” she said.
Curly Tail Coffee is parked at 84 Lumber in Kittanning during the week. Followers can check social media or the website for more information at www.curlytailcoffee.com.