‘It’s not just a truck – it’s life’

It’s been a long time since Kelly Carroll has not had to get up at 5 a.m. to get started on her work delivering food and clothing for R. Place of Refuge, the Kent-based charity organization she runs out of her Easthill home.

Kelly Carroll and her son Robert stand with Carroll’s burnt-out truck Wednesday in Kent. The truck made Carroll’s charity organization

Kent-based charity loses vehicle in fire, seeks act of kindness

It’s been a long time since Kelly Carroll has not had to get up at 5 a.m. to get started on her work delivering food and clothing for R. Place of Refuge, the Kent-based charity organization she runs out of her Easthill home.

Carroll may be pleased for a slight break, but this was not the way she wanted it to happen.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” she said Tuesday. “It’s thrown me off-kilter.”

Monday morning, after picking up a delivery of food to be taken to families around the area, the early 1980s model F250 pickup that R. Place has used to make their rounds for three years burst into flames. The vehicle – as well as the palette of food that was in the back – was a total loss. But it’s not just a loss for R. Place, it’s a loss for the hundreds of families Carroll serves every day, bringing food, furniture or whatever else is needed.

“It’s not just a truck, it’s life,” Carroll said. “When it pulls up, kids know they’re going to eat.”

On Monday, Carroll had to call 60 families to let them know she was not going to be able to make a delivery that day.

One of the phone calls Carroll made was to Flora Jackson, whose home on the Easthill of Kent Carroll visits twice a week, bringing meat and produce for Jackson, her nine grandkids and about five other family members.

“This girl brings stuff like you’ve been shopping at the store,” Jackson said of Carroll. “This woman is a miracle. Now the little truck that bought the food is all gone, I don’t know what we’re going to do.

“On a serious note, we need Kelly.”

The truck was the sole form of transportation for R. Place and routinely saw thousands of miles each week as Carroll made rounds from Seattle to Issaquah, Kent to Tacoma and even multiple trips some weeks to Lewis County to help out victims of last year’s flooding.

Carroll started R. Place more than six years ago to help low-income families as well as domestic-violence victims and those displaced by a disaster or tragedy.

“Our families are not just sitting around not working,” Carroll said of the people who rely on them each week. “Our whole job is just to restore lives.”

Now, instead of helping out, R. Place is hoping someone will help them so they can continue helping others.

“We have no way to pick up or deliver anything,” Carroll said.

R. Place receives no government or grant money so all donations to the non-profit are in-kind. Without a truck, Carroll thought the worst.

“We may have to close the doors because we have no way to deliver to all these clients,” she said.

Carroll said she gets much of her food through Associated Grocers, which also supplies to local food banks. But because she has no way of picking up the donated items, there is no guarantee of food coming in or going out this week.

“Everything we do is based on when I get it; then it goes where it’s going,” she said.

By Tuesday, Carroll was done with the tears and back to working the phones – answering her constantly ringing cell phone, mainly. Tuesday, she borrowed an SUV from a friend to pick up some food to take around, but the big news came around noon, when Penske Truck Rental agreed to donate a vehicle for one week, in the hopes that in the time remaining, Carroll could find another way to get out on the road.

“We’re a nationwide company, but we have our roots in the community,” said Curtis Flowers, district rental manager.

Flowers said he was contacted by a TV news outlet and the company decided to loan Carroll the truck to help her while she figured out her transportation issues.

Carroll is hoping someone will be able to donate another truck and said the fire was a “wake-up call” because it made her realize how important reliable transportation was to R. Place, especially with her busy season starting up.

Carroll is now hoping that the community she has helped will be able to help her, by donating money, gas cards – even potentially a new truck – to keep R. Place of Refuge alive.

“This is the first time I can say the organization needs a random act of kindness,” Carroll said.

Learn more

R. Place For Refuge is a Kent-based charity organization. R. Place is seeking donations, including a truck, gas cards and other store gift cards. For more information, visit www.rplaceofrefuge.org or call Kelly Carroll at 206-255-1178. R. Place is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible.

Contact Brian Beckley at 253-872-6600 ext. 5054 or bbeckley@kentreporter.com

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