CEO Alan Graham discusses the impact and future of the organization.
By Meagan Leahy, photos courtesy of Mobile Loaves & Fishes
Alan Graham has always had a passion to tackle things that others considered insurmountable. His willpower and can-do spirit have propelled him to accomplish many difficult things throughout his lifetime. In Graham’s words, “Everything that I’ve ever built, I’ve built from wind pudding and rabbit tracks.” This is how Graham founded and built an organization that has deeply impacted the homeless population in Austin, an organization unlike any other in the country, Mobile Loaves & Fishes. This month, MLF celebrates its 20th anniversary, a milestone that represents its extensive influence and lasting impact on Austin.
After dropping out of college, Graham cultivated a long and successful career in real-estate development. While working in real estate, he encountered the Roman Catholic Church. The church’s method of pooling resources to serve the community with sack lunches and blankets would plant the seed for his future nonprofit endeavors.
“…It was at that moment that the image of a catering truck entered my mind as a distribution vehicle from those of us that have abundance to those that lack,” Graham says.
That dream sparked Graham to found MLF in 1998, alongside four friends. Today, the organization’s food trucks serve as many as 1,200 meals every day in the Austin area to homeless men and women. The trucks also carry some clothing and hygiene products to distribute.
The truck operation has been tweaked and perfected throughout the organization’s 20 years and has grown to include Community First Village, a 27-acre property that houses many individuals who were once part of Austin’s chronically homeless community and is the only of its kind in the country.
Graham has dedicated his life to serving this organization, declaring, “I’ve just never done anything in my life that has brought me as much joy and happiness as this deal here. It’s an addicting place to be a part of.”
He witnesses the resilience of the human spirit and significant transformations in people every day, and is blown away by the donations of time and talent individuals make toward the success of the organization.
The team at MLF is currently working to create a replication model for other areas of need. While Graham does not have plans to take the organization elsewhere, MLF hosts a quarterly symposium wherein people from throughout the country gain understanding and information about its model.
“It does take decades to really catch on, so we know it’s not an overnight journey. …” Graham says. “And then how do you take this community orientation and apply it to your neighborhood and apply it to foster kids and single moms with children or ex-offenders coming out of prison?”
Graham’s goal is to see this model influence all areas of people’s lives and encourage people to live a more community-oriented life rather than one of isolation.
“I do believe we created a new movement,” Graham says, “not only about how we can mitigate homelessness but, you know, how should you and I actually live?”