Giving Back: Can the Man Van

by | May 16, 2017 | #feedingchange | 1 comment

It was last summer when Jay Callahan came home with his new ride: a used Volkswagan Routan. He strapped car seats into it and looked at it in his drive way. It wasn’t very cool—after all, it was a white minivan. “I’m a man with a van,” he thought to himself. “I guess I might as well use it for good.”

Jay’s version of ‘good’ is quirky and off-beat, but it works. The Head Soccer Coach at Salem College, blogger, husband and father of two became an occasional Uber driver this past winter, and that is when he realized the power of The Man Van.

Leveraging social media and his blog, Jay began to issue Uber Challenges to his riders and online followers to benefit local nonprofits. He builds his social media following by having local musicians play songs in the back of the van while he drives through his hometown of Winston-Salem or having local restaurants donate gift certificates for drawings… and then he calls on his followers to learn about local causes and support them.

This is how Jay and his children arrived at Second Harvest Food Bank with over 500 donated food items this past March. Jay put out a special birthday call asking his followers to “fill the man van with cans.” He knew that food insecurity, despite reports of an improving economy, continues to plague Northwest North Carolina and, he laughs, “also ‘can’ rhymes with ‘man’ and ‘van.’”

Jay and his children started collecting donations, setting up in parking lots and offering lemonade (from his daughter) and high-fives (from his son) in exchange for donations to Second Harvest Food Bank.

It was important to Jay to find a way to give to his community and spread awareness, while not compromising the other important roles he plays in his life. “The big thing for me is that I am a dad. Being a soccer coach is my job. But this… this is what I need to do. This is a way for me to, without interfering with the other parts of my life, raise awareness and help out.”

He says his children, Hudson and McKinley, don’t always know the deeper reasons why they are supporting various causes, but they are aware they are helping others and are, literally, along for the ride. “There is stuff in our trunk all the time,” he says gesturing to a pile of canned food items he has collected “They are picking up on who we help. It is becoming just something we do.”

Hudson and Mckinley have already embraced their father’s altruistic enthusiasm, and are now making and selling bottle cap art to benefit Second Harvest. It is true what they say: every bit counts.

The Callahan Clan already knows this.

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