|Anthony Rice Jr.
One of the hidden blessings of this new assignment, which I didn't expect, is that it gave me a feeling of contributing and supporting the people on the front lines. I brought my son, Aaron. He's 24, and I want him to experience what I felt when you give back. Plus, he did all the heavy lifting."
Anthony Rice Jr., drives for the Lincoln Personal Driver pilot program—a luxury ride hail service offering Lincoln certified professional drivers utilizing some of the brand's newest vehicles. Six short months ago, if he wasn't shuttling travelers to and from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, he was chauffeuring guests to downtown restaurants, shopping malls and house parties.
Rice was busy. And he liked it. Driving a 2020 Lincoln Navigator filled with upbeat passengers made his day—or night. He couldn't imagine a better job. Behind the wheel of a beautiful, luxurious vehicle. Interesting conversation with excited passengers. Good pay. Better gratuities. Easy on the back. Life was good.
"Initially, we were doing Nights on the Town, where we picked someone up and would drive them to a location, a venue or event," he said. "Most of the time, we stayed with them for the evening. I was a personal chauffeur. I was in a new Navigator and was busy all the time. It was fun."
"Then the pandemic came. Nights on the Town stopped, and airport runs dwindled. I thought it was over."
But it wasn't over. The Lincoln Personal Driver pilot shifted its focus. And Rice is glad it did.
Working with the Ford Fund, program managers redirected drivers to deliver meals and personal protection equipment to hospital employees, nonprofit agencies, senior citizen residencies as well as police and fire stations. Ford Fund paid for the meals and PPE kits. Lincoln paid for the deliveries.
Rice and his fellow drivers were able to keep working—and rethink their own priorities.
"One day, I delivered PPE and rubbing alcohol to 40 locations," Rice said. "If you could see the people, the looks on their faces when I pulled up. They were in desperate need; they couldn't find hand sanitizer and masks."
"At the hospitals, they were so busy, they didn't have time to go eat. The appreciation in their eyes and their voices. That's when I realized that what we are doing is very special. They are on a battlefield, and they can come and eat and rest, and then they go back to the battlefield.
"The other thing this program is doing is helping to keep small restaurants alive. By ordering these meals, Ford Fund is giving Detroit restaurants a fighting chance."
Rice was so taken with the heart-felt expressions of gratitude he received when he made the deliveries that he recorded short videos of the recipients. He wanted to share what he saw and heard with corporate leadership.
At Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Jennifer Ritz is the director of Environmental Services. She accepted lunches from Rice recently and thanked Ford and Ford Fund on video. "This is going to feed 150 hungry housekeepers at the hospital," she said. "We are so appreciative. Thank you, Ford. We love you."
DiAanna Solomon, Fund Development manager of Detroit Area Agency on Aging, received a delivery of gloves from Rice one recent afternoon. She, too, expressed appreciation through a video snip-it. "Thank you so much to Ford Fund, the delivery vehicles and amazing drivers," she said.
At Onassis Coney Island, on Michigan and Trumbull, owner Mario Gjolaj is emotional as he speaks into Rice's iPhone: "A big thank you to Ford Motor Company for this added business. Without you, I wouldn't be able to stay open. Thank you very much and God bless you all."
As powerful as it is, the gratitude Rice feels from those he is helping is only part of the story.
"The day my son came out with me, we delivered 750 kits to a police station and another 750 kits to a fire station. It was nice having my son, not only did he help lift and carry. It was a good bonding experience.
After delivering food and supplies around Detroit, Anthony Rice captures video testimonies from the essential workers he has gotten to know over the past several weeks.
Through May 2020, Ford Fund has invested nearly $2.5 million to support nonprofits in Southeast Michigan, across the U.S. and around the world that are addressing critical issues and meeting urgent community needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this support, Ford Fund is working in concert with Ford Motor Company's engineers, researchers and suppliers manufacturing masks, respirator, ventilators and other critical medical equipment and supplies. To learn more about Ford Fund's response to COVID-19 and ways you can help, visit fordfund.org/covid19. To learn more about Ford Motor Company's recent news and efforts related to the pandemic, click here.