A single warm holiday meal might not seem like much, but when you are struggling just to pay the bills, the thought of filling a family’s bellies with a Thanksgiving feast is unfathomable. Adam Nugent and Kate Strong welcome Rob Adams to the show with an emotional and heartwarming message. He is the founder of Thanksgiving Heroes. From humble beginnings in poverty, learn how Rob turned his personal story into action! With a mission to ensure that no American family goes hungry on Thanksgiving, find out how celebrating the power of hope, gratitude, and goodness of humanity can bring us all together!
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In this week’s podcast excerpt, Rob Adams shares his personal experience of homelessness and how one family’s act of kindness inspired him to start providing Thanksgiving dinners to struggling families.
AN: You’ve literally served meals to thousands of people across the country during this time of year, but you grew up in poverty, isn’t that correct? Would you mind sharing your story?
RA: We lived in Las Vegas. We headed down to Texas for a new company that my dad got a job with. They wanted him to upsell or false-sell things that didn’t need to be fixed. So they wanted him to go into the homeowner and say, “Hey, your air conditioner is running good, but you’re going to need a new flux capacitor.“ He refused to do that.
So, we had sold everything and traveled down there, kind of on a wing and a prayer. And when we got there, the finances didn’t work out. And so we were basically broke and we had invested our money on a piece of land. And so we owned some dirt, but we didn’t have a house to put on it. So we were living out of our pickup truck on this land that we owned in a town called Porter, Texas. There was me, my sister, Laurie, Jake, and a baby girl named Betsy.
We only had a pair of clothes for church and a pair of clothes for school, and we never ate at home. I only ate free breakfast and free lunch at school. And those Texas lunch ladies, boy, they would hook me up with those biscuits and gravy and grits and all that stuff. And they would see me coming. And I would imagine, you know, they could see my tail wagging. They would just load my tray up because they knew that I was just starving.
AN: What spearheaded the idea to start helping people?
RA: So it was a family named the Christensens who let us into their home and said we could stay there right before Christmas. And they bought us Christmas presents, but what really impressed me was when we went upstairs, the fridge was full of food and there was a pumpkin pie that was at eye level. We opened up the door and I saw that pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream in the middle. And I was so excited for this food that we could do anything that we wanted with it. We could eat it right now if we wanted. I didn’t have to wait. I didn’t have to be hungry. And Christensens said, “Have a great time. We’ll see you in a week.” And they left. And we ran into the kitchen and started putting things in the stove and cooking things right then because I think my mom and dad were hungry too. I think we were all kind of on the verge. And so that was really the catalyst.
I remember saying to my mom after they left, “Mom, one day when I’m rich,” which in my 11-year-old mind was code for not sleeping in my truck, “I want to do this for somebody.” And she said, “You will, Robbie.”
They gave us hope. It was hope more than it was food. And that was a big thing for me. And I would never forget it. So then yes, fast forward. I’m in real estate, and I’m being wildly blessed. I’m working really hard and helping a lot of families find homes. And then my mom gets diagnosed with brain cancer. And she just said, “It’s time for you to do this. Quit talking about it and get to it.”
I looked around and I thought I could feed 10 families. I went to the grocery store and got all I needed for a Thanksgiving dinner. And I told one of my buddies and he was like, “Well, Rob, I want to feed 10 families. And I’m like, “That’s a great idea.” And it just kind of grew from there.
To donate or volunteer, visit thanksgivingsheroes.org.
► To learn more, read our in-depth article about Thanksgiving Heroes.