First Hot Meals USA trailer close to completion

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - A Kearney man's dream to feed thousands of people in times of disasters is almost a reality.

The Kearney Noon Rotary Club hosted a dedication ceremony for Hot Meals USA Monday afternoon at St. James Church. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

The Kearney Noon Rotary Club hosted a dedication ceremony for the first Hot Meals USA trailer Monday afternoon at St. James Church.

Although it's not finished, the trailer has been put to good use since the Midwest floods. It's fed flood victims more than 7,500 meals; more than half of them in Kearney after the July flood.

"We could've sat back and said, 'we're not done yet. We're not ready,' said Dick Cochran, the founder of Hot Meals USA. "Instead we looked at what we had, and we said, "you know what, we can get out there and help some. So immediately after the flood we went to work."

The trailer is 24 feet long. It has its own grill, cooler and oven. Hot Meals USA provides meals to disaster victims. They have food like hamburgers and hot dogs, drinks, coffee, tea and even ice cream.

Cochran started the project back in October 2017. He bought the trailer for about $120,000, with one couple donating a good portion of funds.

The trailer is outfitted with equipment funded by a $75,000 grant from Rotary District 5630 in Nebraska and Rotary District 6780 in Tennessee. The Nebraska District is funding the pick-up truck, and the Tennessee District the trailer. Other clubs around the country, and even around the world also contributed.

Disasters aren't foreign to some members from Tennessee.

"Our city and our county had a devastating forest fire. We lost 2,500 structures and 21 people died in the fires," said Jerry Wear, past district governor of Rotary District 6780. "We wanted to come back and say, "thank you Nebraska for helping us.""

That's a big reason Rotary became involved in the project. Clubs from six states and two other countries helped secure grants or donated money.

"Rotary's biggest asset is we have rotary clubs and members virtually in every city in the United States. So when the unit is heading to a disaster in some city, we can help volunteer," said Don Peterson, district foundation chair for Rotary District 5630.

Now they're waiting on grant money to finish equipping the trailer. Cochran said his goal is to get seven trailers to bring out to disaster victims across the country.

Hot Meals USA is a non-profit organization. If you're interested in donating or sponsoring meals, you can contact them at hotmealsusa@gmail.com.

"This thing started because of the Gospel Matthew," Cochran said. "It said, "when I was hungry, He fed me." That's what we do."