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Henderson couple renovate food truck to cater to Las Vegas homeless

In a dirt lot on the corner of G Street and McWilliams Avenue, about 100 people are lined up, waiting for the food truck to finish cooking and start serving.

But this isn’t any ordinary truck, and these aren’t regular customers. They are homeless.

Missionaries Brian and Jenny Bland, who are Henderson residents, created Goodness Gracious Ministries to feed the body as well as the soul of the Las Vegas Valley’s homeless population.

“Imagine not having food and trying to find hope,” Jenny said. “Our vision is to serve people on a smaller scale and make a connection with them.”

Though they established the nonprofit in 2015, the food truck just got officially up and running in July after six months of renovations.

Originally from Illinois, Jenny, a nurse, and Brian, who worked in construction, felt a call to become missionaries. They moved to the Dominican Republic a few years ago to begin their ministry.

They said one of the biggest lessons they learned there is that the best way to reach people is through food. Jenny said kids would often come to church with the couple just because they wanted to go to their place afterward for a meal.

“We aren’t gourmet cooks by any means,” she said. “But we do love to cook.”

After visiting their daughter in Las Vegas, Brian felt the need to move out to the desert and minister to the homeless here.

“I was driving around and just saw the need,” he said. “And God put it in my heart that we needed to be here.”

He added that not only did he want to come minister to the homeless in Las Vegas but also to do it with a food truck.

“No one else was doing it,” he added.

After praying about it, the couple moved from the Dominican Republic to Las Vegas. While establishing Goodness Gracious Ministries as a nonprofit, they sought to find a truck that would accommodate their vision. After finding the one they liked, it took several months to get it ready.

“We bought it for $10,000 and it took about $6,000 to renovate it,” Bland said.

The couple did fundraising and took donations to help the cost.

“We had a friend from Illinois who matched the money (of what we raised),” she added.

Meanwhile, they made connections around town with other ministries and started doing outreach to people in need of a meal.

“We were serving sacked lunches from the back of our Expedition for a while,” Brian said.

On a hot July morning, the newly renovated truck pulled up to the empty lot in downtown Las Vegas. Though most who gather know the meals usually aren’t passed out until 8 a.m., the Blands arrived around 7 a.m. to start cooking and setting up.

“We’ve been practicing at home,” Jenny said.

Brian heats up the griddle while Jenny mixes the pancake batter. Prior to the meal starting, the line pulls in more men and women from the streets who are eagerly waiting for their first — and maybe only — meal of the day.

Along with the arrival of new people waiting for food are volunteers from other churches. The Blands are working with the ministry Loaves and Fish, which regularly coordinates volunteers to offer food on that plot of land.

As Brian finishes the food, they pray for the meal and begin to serve. Each volunteer scoops the items onto a plate — one pancake, a scoop of eggs, some hash browns and a bagel, which are donated from various companies.

Brian tends the griddle, flipping another batch of pancakes, while Jenny walks around the lot, talking with people she has made connections with over the last few months.

“That’s my favorite part about doing this,” she said. “Going around and being able to talk with people.”

As the food dwindles, so does the line. Now only a few people are left to get their first helping of food. At the end, a few people come back for seconds.

The Blands plan to return to this spot periodically — at least once per week.

“But we hit up different places throughout the week,” Brian said. “We try to help out other ministries as well.”

Their travels around the valley has led them to also have weekly stops at Tonopah Park in North Las Vegas, where they provide food to children who could benefit from another meal.

They said they already have bigger plans for their truck. Jenny wants to start doing training for youths interested in learning how to cook.

“We are reaching out to local chefs,” she said. “We want to start teaching culinary skills in the back of our kitchen. Maybe it will help them find employment.”

Recently, the couple were given another 30-foot trailer. They don’t know what they will use it for, but the Blands are looking into what it would take to create a mobile shower.

“We have to see if that’s even possible,” Jenny said. “We will have to pray about it.”

Visit goodnessgraciousministries.com.

To reach Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle, email mlyle@viewnews.com or call 702-387-5201. Find him on Twitter: @mjlyle.

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