Story and video by Lawson Martin. Photos by Jerry Crayton.
“We want to give back in the community we work and play in,” says Hannah Sherertz, the Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility for the Dallas Mavericks and Executive Director of the Mavs Foundation.
The Mavericks are teaming up with Ruthie’s For Good, a food truck business dedicated to providing employment and rehabilitation opportunities for individuals impacted by the justice system. Ruthie’s food trucks can often be spotted selling gooey grilled cheese sandwiches at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas and to hungry Mustangs at Southern Methodist University football and basketball games.
Together, the Mavericks and Ruthie’s will serve smiles to communities throughout Dallas. Through their partnership, the Mavs and Ruthie’s are uniting for community events throughout the year, including Snacks of Kindness, an initiative that backs local nonprofits and showcases their dedicated work.
Ashlee Kleinert, owner of Ruthie’s For Good, says the partnership with Mavs is something she and the Ruthie’s team have been working on for several years.
“Teaming up with the Dallas Mavericks is literally a dream come true! By ourselves, Ruthie’s can feed people and lift spirits on a small scale. Yet together, we can do so much more,” she says. “The Dallas Mavericks are a world-class organization full of people who passionately care about our community and impacting change for good.”
According to Hannah, the Dallas Mavericks have known about Ruthie’s For Good for a while now and have always admired and appreciated the work Ruthie’s has done for individuals impacted by the justice system.
“We’ve always seen really strong synergies between the stories that Ruthie’s is telling and the impact they’re making not only on the individuals they are serving food to but the teens and adults working on their food trucks,” Hannah says.
The Dallas Mavericks jumped at the opportunity to work with Ruthie’s For Good because of the opportunity to share and connect their brand with the meaningful work Ruthie’s was doing. The Snacks of Kindness program, in particular, allowed them to align their community events with Ruthie’s efforts and staffing.
“Ruthie’s was able to come in and amplify the work we are already doing, which we love,” Hannah says.
Before Christmas, the Mavs and Ruthie’s delivered Snacks of Kindness to three community organizations, Bachman Lake Together, Texas Native Health, and Family Compass, as part of Dallas Mavericks player Kyrie Irving’s “11 Days of Giving Initiative.”
A Ruthie’s food truck, now decked out in a Dallas Mavericks decal, was present at each event, serving up warm and nourishing meals to hundreds of individuals and families free of charge. The families also received special ANTA gear and game tickets donated by Irving.
Olga Hickman, executive director of Bachman Lake Together, expressed her appreciation for the Dallas Mavericks and Ruthie’s For Good bringing the Snacks of Kindness initiative to the nonprofit, saying it was a true celebration for families. She says the event brought families together, provided them with food, and created opportunities for community participation.
Olga thanked the Dallas Mavericks for providing access to basketball games for families, as some families may face barriers like the cost of tickets and transportation. She also appreciated the access they gave families to Ruthie’s food truck.
“Even today with Ruthie’s, how often do our families have access to that food truck?” Olga says. “It’s a cold day, and we love seeing them get some yummy and free lunch.”
In addition to hosting events at area nonprofits, the Mavericks and Ruthie’s are also showing their appreciation toward individuals in the Dallas community who are making a difference in the lives of everyone, including police officers and teachers. In November, the Mavericks and Ruthie’s teams collaborated to deliver delicious grilled cheese meals to the Fort Worth Police Department to thank them for their dedication.
“Nothing feels better in your stomach than a warm sandwich and sometimes soup if it’s cold out,” Ashlee says, adding, “and a friendly smile.”
“This is just the beginning,” says a Facebook post from the Good Foundation, founded by Ashlee and her husband, Chris. “There is so much more GOOD to come from this collaboration.”
Hannah hinted at what’s ahead for both the Mavericks and Ruthie’s, including teacher appreciation surprises, where they will go and serve meals at area schools, court dedications, and community festivals hosted throughout the spring and summer.
“It’s always so important for us to make sure that the community members we’re serving at our events feel the love and support of the Mavericks and Ruthie’s and just know that we’re here for them,” Hannah says.
Ashlee agrees that creating genuine connections with community members is what this partnership is all about.
“There’s nothing better than eye-to-eye contact, talking with people, and really feeling like you’re getting to know them and making a difference, and they know that they’re cared about and seen,” she says.
According to Hannah, individuals at the Mavericks have not only enjoyed connecting with community members but also getting to know the hardworking individuals who are working on Ruthie’s food trucks. From the first weekend that they worked together for Snacks of Kindness, she noticed that all the men, women, and teenagers working on the food trucks had immense hearts.
“They were such incredible individuals, all with really impactful stories to tell,” Hannah says. “And learning about how they inspire each other and impact each other’s lives for the positive is exciting to see.”
Hannah says their interactions with Ruthie’s For Good staffers show that their collaboration is impacting not only the community they’re serving but also each other within these two organizations.
Ashlee envisions a long-term collaboration between Ruthie’s and the Mavericks, aspiring for the partnership to flourish and evolve into their go-to community ally actively engaged in street-level outreach.
“The good thing about being on a truck is we can drive to whatever the location is to serve and feed people,” Ashlee says. “There are many options and ways to make this work. So there’s a lot to be seen and experiment with.”
Ashlee says she’s ready to give the initiative “a big shot.”
“This is a big deal to me personally as the founder of Ruthie’s,” she says. “When we began, it was just a food truck serving grilled cheese sandwiches, and it’s grown over a decade. With all the experiences we’ve had and all the hurdles and obstacles, something like this makes it worth it. It’s just fun to have a partner and a world-class organization want to be a part of it, too.”
Just as a grilled cheese sandwich warms souls on a cold day, the individuals at the Dallas Mavericks and Ruthie’s For Good intend to warm the soul with love, compassion, and unity, creating a community where every heart finds warmth and belonging.