As 2014 unfolds, I have shared with many of you, The Orange County Rescue Mission’s donors, partners and supporters, my dreams and goals to serve the populations of homeless veterans in our community.
Where projects are in the works to provide housing for the men and women that have served our country and fallen on difficult times upon their return home, there is an exciting endeavor underway that I am thrilled to share with you.
The Rescue Mission plans to partner with The Grilled Cheese Truck to provide internships, training and eventual ownership of individual franchise trucks as a means of jobs and income.
Kevin Sablan covers the joint venture for the Orange County Register.
By KEVIN SABLAN / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin has entered a joint venture with The Grilled Cheese Truck to expand the food truck into a national franchise while setting homeless veterans on a path to entrepreneurship.
The Grilled Cheese Truck operates 14 trucks in Southern California and Phoenix. The business, which operates out of Gardena with a small executive office near John Wayne Airport, plans to grow rapidly through a franchising program set to launch this summer.
“It’s a race to get more trucks out there, in more markets. In order to do that, we need a partner,” said Robbie Lee, chairman of the company’s board of directors.
Lee found a partner in the nonprofit Mission, which trains, shelters and houses the homeless at its 192-bed Village of Hope. Mission President Jim Palmer said the organization provides 1.2 million meals per year, but also wants to move people into viable jobs so that they can be self-sufficient.
The pilot program and the Mission will train homeless veterans to intern, work and eventually run their own Grilled Cheese Trucks. “We know that qualified veterans do both customer service and standard operating procedures better than their civilian counterparts,” Lee said.
Orange County has about 3,500 homeless veterans, according to the nonprofit Veterans First.
Some of the revenue generated by veteran-operated trucks will go back to the mission, where Palmer hopes to build an additional 200 beds to house homeless vets. If the program is a success, Lee will roll it out to other cities across the country, with a goal of having 100 veteran-run trucks on the road within 12 months.
“This is not charity with the mission,” he said. “This is a legitimate joint venture.”