Creating a Joy Bus. One woman’s journey to support cancer patients with love and organic meals
Sometimes in life you meet a person so inspiring that you feel the connection instantly. Because there are no accidents, these connections teach and remind us of our own true nature. My moment came when my path intersected with a woman who exemplifies strength in vulnerability and is a true testament that tenacity can stand arm in arm with compassion. Introducing Jennifer Caraway, founder of the Joy Bus. Ms. Jennifer is brilliant, bossy, loving, talented, and full of the spark that empowers transformation.
Jennifer founded Joy Bus while witnessing her friend Joy dying of cancer. She describes their connection and cries when she tells me of Joy’s always positive attitude and love for life. Jennifer, a chef, would bring food to Joy every week. Together they would speak of hope and support. Jennifer would then get in her car and cry with the feeling of helplessness that often comes when seeing those we love in pain.
As often results from turmoil, a Phoenix rises and the dark turns into light, creating a path of passion and paying it forward. That is exactly what happened when Jennifer realized that many others dealing with the pain of cancer do not have a support system and she knew that her path would forever change. With Joy still alive to witness the milestone, Jennifer created Joy Bus from a place of love and the food of spirit.
Joy Bus provides organic meals to individuals with cancer. Jennifer is quick to tell you that the mission of Joy Bus is more than the food. The team isn’t about dropping off a meal. Because Jennifer knows that food feeds both our bodies and our love for each other, the Joy Bus volunteers deliver beautifully prepared healthy meals and then they stay, listen, catch-up, and dream. They hold the space of support for those in need of that perfect healing.
A stunning and brilliant woman, Jennifer is the best kind of bold go-getter. Listening to her reminded me of the importance of sheer will, courage, and heart. Picture a bass player with long blonde hair that cooks like a rock star and leads like a CEO. Jennifer’s path into food began as a teenager doing dishes in a Mexican restaurant. Within a month she was promoted and never looked back. After graduating from Northern Arizona University with a restaurant management degree Jennifer packed her lucky black trunk, moved to Portland, slept on the floor of a friend’s studio to play in her band and yet never let go of her love of food.
Jennifer’s moxie and talent manifested a restaurant founded not on cash, but on sheer will. While playing bass she stumbled across a location that she knew was destined to be hers. With no money and only a trust that the universe provides, Jennifer asked the owners of the restaurant if they would sell it to her. Somehow they said yes and even more incredible, this lady that was sleeping on floors with only her black trunk and dog as security, was able to borrow the money and her first place of food love was founded. Within four months her Mexican restaurant was so packed there was a waiting list to get in. I asked her the obvious question. HOW? Her response was classic of many that take beautiful risk, “I just went for it…. and it was amazing!!”. Her journey has since brought her across the world to Spain and Mexico. Still with the black trunk and now two beautiful additions, her son and daughter Sinai and Areli. Her face lights up when she describes their giving nature. Imagine teenagers that hold the door for senior citizens and support and love the adventure they create together with their mom.
In 2011 Jennifer filed the Joy Bus name and had to patiently wait for two years until finally her non-profit status was finalized. Always one for action, she was approaching organic farmers to support her endeavor. Much to her surprise, initially they said no. She was shocked and thought to herself “How is this possible? … I am not getting paid and trying to do something amazing!” Because Jennifer and I are kindred spirits and both know this feeling well, we also aren’t ones to give up. For her the determination had a result better than she could have imagined. After repeatedly being disappointed by every farmer who wouldn’t give her even just one box of organic produce, fate delivered and Crooked Sky Farms stepped up. Not only said yes, they asked her if she wanted more!
Today Jennifer has twelve people that receive her freshly prepared organic meals. They are beautifully delivered in artistic bags created by school children. She speaks of “food from the earth” and wanting it to be “local and organic”. Exactly! Recall that connection!! Food is her connection. If I dare say, her love language. Her desire is to someday have an actual bus and many volunteers so together as a community they can serve those dealing with cancer.
Jennifer saves every loving message received by those she supports. She listens to them and tears of raw emotion come to this strong lady’s eyes. Every step and every meal is one that changes the world. A brilliant minute at a time.
We are blessed to receive Jennifer’s Grilled Veggie Skewers with Tzatziki and Baba Ghanoush recipe.