By JOHN FERGUSON

It’s raining pretty steady and Ron Thorn must guide the loaded white van through narrow neighborhood streets on Wagoner’s southwest side of town.

He pulls into an apartment complex and honks the horn. If nothing happens, he hits the horn again.

Nothing needs to be said. People know who it is and what he’s doing.

Thorn watches for activity coming his way as helper Bethanee Smith finds an umbrella to keep the brown bag lunches she’s about to hand out dry.

Soon, kids and adults make their way to the van and lunch is served.

This happened almost 200 times on Friday, Aug. 9. Thorn and Smith waited patiently for citizens to come out of homes or apartments to get a free lunch when they may not have one otherwise.

Nothing needs to be said by the people who receive the meals. Sometimes they say, ‘Thanks’ with words and other times it is just a silent hug. The meaning is clear either way.

It’s easy to see why some have called Thorn a knight in a white van delivering hope.

Thorn and Smith are part of the Wagoner Community Outreach. Every summer, Monday through Friday, they deliver. It doesn’t matter if it is raining or blazing hot. They pull up to houses and apartments and honk the horn.

They get waved off sometimes, but that’s OK. It’s on to the next stop.

“This is one of my favorites,” Smith said as they pull up to another house.

The conversation in the van is always positive and sometimes turns to Smith’s favorite sport, soccer.

They will finish up the summer deliveries on Wednesday, Aug. 14. Thorn and Smith average around 200 meals a trip, but hit a high of 230 this summer.

Last year, the duo delivered 500 sack lunches in one day!

New Beginnings started it all about a decade ago. Now, churches take turns making enough lunches for a week before another one steps up.

“Some help also comes from Wagoner Community Outreach,” Thorn added. “We deliver five days a week.”

What’s been some of the reaction?

“All are very grateful,” Thorn said.

“Seeing the kids’ faces and smiles (is the best part for me),” Smith said.

Some of the kids ask to go with Thorn and Smith, but there’s really not enough room when one figures in all the space needed for the sack lunches.

Speaking of room, the white van has made the job a lot easier. Thorn used to deliver from a car and space was at a premium.

Kevin Grover Buick GMC stepped up and donated the van. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.

“This van is a blessing,” Thorn added.

Thorn drives the Community Outreach Food Drive, too. He’s glad Smith is such a good helper.

“She is such a dedicated young girl and loves to serve,” Thorn described.

It takes about two hours to complete the route.

Interestingly, no one had to sign up for this service. Thorn drives through the neighborhood and honks and citizens know it is summer sack lunch time again in June.

John covers news and sports for the Wagoner County American-Tribune. Phone: 918-485-5505