The fumes of diesel exhaust and the throaty, gargling hum of nearly ancient engines overwhelms the senses. The sky is slate grey, casting a harsh light that makes the colors of the hundreds of classic British cars pop, as if the paint was made to look its best on overcast days. The cars are every make and model from British automotive history, including Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, and Minis.
Car enthusiasts have gathered here at St. Edwards Park today to show off their prized possessions, but before they leave, they’ll feed thousands of our hungry neighbors.
“I know all the different cars now, after years of working this event I’ve probably seen every one!” Exclaims Lindsay Carlisle, Food Lifeline’s Community Engagement Coordinator.
The cars are mostly in rows, separated by marque and car club; like the Tyee Triumph club or the Seattle Area Mini Owners Association, commonly shortened to Samoa. In the center of all the rows of cars is a small grassy hill where the cars representing the theme for this years show, the roaring sixties, are arranged into a ‘winner’s circle’. In the corner quietly observing this lavish display of British mechanical expertise is our Food Lifeline tent. Here with Lindsay Carlisle, Food Lifeline’s community engagement coordinator, we hold the coveted Drive for Food plaque, etched with Food Lifeline’s logo and the logo of the All British Field Meet. On the plaque there are numerous small golden rectangles where the names of previously winning car clubs are etched for posterity, and bragging rights.
“Samoa usually wins, this year we’re gonna give them a run for their money”, says a member of Tyee Triumph car club, chief rival of Samoa.
The Drive for Food competition has been occurring for a few years, and requires participating car clubs to donate as much as they can in terms of total dollars raised. Some clubs bring us boxes of cereal, baking products, and chips, while others write us checks or drop bills into our donation box. With each donation a remark is made on the club to beat, Samoa. Their name adorns the last three out of four slots for previously winning clubs on our plaque, and the competitive tension is palpable. It becomes clear that Samoa has something to prove, a tenacious desire to demonstrate that even though they don’t have the biggest cars, they certainly have the biggest hearts when it comes to helping those struggling with food insecurity.
“That’s what this club is all about, we don’t just work on our cars, we try and get our members to volunteer whenever they can. To be a part of the community, to help people”, explains one Samoa member.
As we chat with guests to the car show curious about Food Lifeline’s mission, a steady stream of car club members come to our tent to donate food or cash, and the competition is becoming fierce. The top two clubs are Tyee Triumph, and Samoa, who throughout the day routinely edge out the other in terms of donations. As the sun begins the shine, Lindsay takes the stage to announce of the winner of the Drive for Food competition. As in years past, Samoa beats out the other clubs by a sizeable margin, and they triumphantly hoot and holler as their leader is given the Food Lifeline plaque. The donation of Samoa and all the other car clubs raised enough money for over 25,000 meals for hungry people across western Washington. It seems that a little competition can be just the catalyst people need to unleash their generosity in the fight against hunger.