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Long-time Restauranteurs in Lancaster Open Non-Profit Food Truck

Randi Walle Randi Walle Long-time Restauranteurs in Lancaster Open Non-Profit Food TruckPhotos courtesy Billy Smith.
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Billy and Lorena Smith have been in the Lancaster restaurant community for over 20 years. Earlier this year, they launched the non-profit food truck FreeChee, offering grilled cheese and tomato soup to those in need.

The Smiths owned and operated the local restaurant Billy Crickets from 1996 through 2011. In 2015, they opened Cherry Street Pub in a historic building in Lancaster. After years of preparing and dreaming about helping a community through food, the couple stepped into the food truck realm with their non-profit truck FreeChee earlier in 2018.

The non-profit truck will travel to communities in need of disaster relief, such as hurricane and flood recovery locations. Additionally, they plan to serve those in need of a meal in inner cities, college campuses, K-12 schools, and hospitals, as time allows. Smith said their decision to start a non-profit was based on their desire to “Give back in a unique way, not only to those in need, but to anybody, anywhere, anytime.”

Visitors of the FreeChee truck.

The Smith’s decision to offer grilled cheese and tomato soup had several factors. The root of the idea dated back to selling grilled cheese in parking lots at Grateful Dead concerts in the 80s and 90s. On a business level, the idea met three criteria: something most people would love, simple and quick to prepare, and relatively inexpensive.

In October, the Smiths made their first trip with their FreeChee trailer. They traveled to Florida following Hurricane Michael. They were able to feed around 500 people a day, setting up in the same parking lot every day. Smith said by the end of the week, they had regulars waiting on them to open. After about a week of serving grilled cheese and tomato soup to victims and volunteers, FreeChee ran out of supplies and headed back to Ohio. “For that week, it was humanity at its best…nothing mattered except the welfare of each other,” Smith said.

From Oct. 31 through Nov. 3, FreeChee set up shop at Lancaster’s Freedom’s Never Free event. This celebratory event honors and appreciates veterans, military personnel and first responders, along with their families. FreeChee served grilled cheese and tomato soup to those in attendance, honoring the service and commitment of those serving the United states.

Smith said, “Our cause is not just for those in bad circumstances, it’s to spread love and kindness with soup, sandwich, and a smile!”

For more information, follow Operation FreeChee on Facebook.

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