Holiday food drive hungry for participants

by Steven Macleod

CALGARY, Alta. – For most of the year a 48-foot Rosenau trailer is put to work in the same fashion as its brethren. But for a handful of days in the later months of the year, the specially decaled trailer puts aside its freight hauling duties to do some charity work. The 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign kicked off in Calgary on Oct. 1 with the goal of keeping kitchen cabinets filled with food during the holiday season.

“Nationally and internationally truck companies get a bad rep. This is a good way to raise the profile and respect of the industry,” explained Colleen Nickel, one of the campaign’s coordinators. “The people behind the trucks all have families and so many people know somebody who has had to rely on a service like the food bank because of a downturn in the economy.”

The 18 Wheels of Christmas trailer makes its rounds throughout Alberta during the campaign and all food donated goes back into the communities in which it is collected. As a result of the mobile campaign, Medicine Hat, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Lloydminster were the recipients of a total of 20 skids of food last year. This year the program’s coordinators are reaching out to the transportation industry with the goal of sending one trailer, full of food, to a different city or town throughout the province for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas.

The inaugural 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign was conceived in 2003 by Dale Hart, co-manager of the Rosenau Transport Calgary Terminal. Hart’s concept of the program is to involve the entire trucking industry from coast-to-coast, collecting donations for the food banks in each province under one umbrella. But her first step was to get the campaign rolling in Alberta.

Hart brought the idea to Carl Rosenau, president of the carrier, and a trailer was secured for the sole purpose of collecting donations. It was also agreed that donor names would be decaled onto the side of the trailer as a thank you to the contributors. The names remain on the side of the specially decorated trailer after the Christmas campaign when the trailer goes back into general service.

“Pretty well everyone goes on the trailer and their name stays there until they decide not to donate anymore,” Nickel told Truck News. “But we do have to limit it somewhat and we do ask for a minimum of a $200 donation. It is just the company name, not the logo; and it’s done in block letters.”

At the conclusion of the first campaign, 26 names were emblazoned on the side of the trailer and 18 Wheels of Christmas had collected 22,217 pounds of food for the Calgary Food Bank.

Just entering its fourth campaign in 2006, 18 Wheels of Christmas has had its share of ups and downs.

Following a successful first run in 2003, the second year of the 18 Wheels of Christmas went through a bit of a sophomore slump. Although the number of contributor names on the trailer had increased to 43, the trailer arrived at the food bank at the campaign’s conclusion with 9,761 pounds of food and $549 in cash donations.

With the decline of interest in 2004, there were thoughts of not rolling out the 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign in 2005. But with support from everyone involved in bringing the campaign together, the program forged ahead.

And the response was overwhelming. The trailer now dons the names of 57 companies and donations totaled approximately $75,000 worth of food and weighed in at about 45,000 pounds.

“Last year was our best year, so our goal is to beat last year,” said Nickel. “Last year we collected a 48-foot trailer and a body job, which is another 12 skids of food. We’d like to beat the dollar-wise and the poundage from last year.”

One of the reasons for last year’s success was the appearance of the 18 Wheels of Christmas trailer outside of the Lake Bonavista Promenade in southwest Calgary for public donations. The trailer will again be making an appearance at the Lake Bonavista Promenade in 2006, during the morning of Nov. 25; and will also be at the Douglas Square Sobey’s in southeast Calgary during the afternoon of Dec. 2.

Companies collecting food for the 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign are encouraged to donate skids of food or $200, however no donation will be turned down. The food bank also issues tax receipts for donations accompanied by an invoice or grocery receipt.

Donations can be picked up throughout the course of the campaign or at the tail end of December.

“They can phone throughout the campaign or wait until they have collected all they think they can,” noted Nickel. “It would be nice to have all our pickups done by the 19th, so we can have everything squared away. We will be at the Interfaith Food Bank on the 20th early in the morning sorting through everything and preparing to deliver all the collections.”

Hoping to build on last year’s success, the program’s coordinators still would like to reach their initial goal of creating a nationwide program.

“It’s still our goal and we do have interest out in the Lower Mainland and the Island, so there has been interest to get this going under the 18 Wheels banner,” said Nickel. “We’d really like to see companies pick up the program and run it under the banner.”

For more information call 403-279-4204 or e-mail at

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data