SALEM - The Arby's Car Cruise concluded its fourth year by collecting 103,518 lbs. of food for the Salem Community Food Pantry. Organizer Gene Johnson said the goal was 100,000 lbs. Each year the goal has increased and been reached.
"We reached the goal. It was very questionable at times if were going to," Johnson said, noting the weather was a problem. "We had two complete rainouts and five partial rainouts,"he said. That's out of a total of 26 cruise nights.
Last year the Arby's Car Cruise collected 85,000 pounds of food. In 2011 it collected 57,000 pounds. In 2010 it collected 18,500 pounds.
"We're looking forward to next year," Johnson said. The cruises begin in May at the Salem Arby's at 2320 E. State St. Admission is free to the public and for a donation of $2 or two cans of non-perishable food people can get a ticket for door prize giveaways. About 20 door prizes are given away each Saturday.
The Arby's Car Cruise started a Facebook page that came on line in March. It has been a huge success and has 2,685 "Friends" including one from west coast custom motorcycle builder Jesse James.
"He gave us a thumbs-up," Johnson said. He was surprised at the reach of the social media. "It works good as far as getting the word out. We can email them too. Yeah, we've been getting a lot of people from all over the country. I never realized social media was this way.
Also added to the Facebook page is a cruise alert that indicates go or no-go situations regarding the weather with red and green lights.
During the year Salem Tire, the Goodyear tire retailer, donated 50 cents for each tire sold and $1 from each front end alignment between May and Aug. 30 to the pantry. It added up to $700, Johnson said. Arby's offered 5 percent off its menu tokens to each cruiser who signed in during each cruise.
There were also special cruise nights that highlighted various auto makes while spotlighting rat rods, modern muscle cars, antiques, Mopars, Fords, Chevies and AMC. On Sept. 7 the cruise honored the Corvette's 60th birthday and it held a Halloween costume and car decoration cruise. The Corvette night was the biggest night as far as a specialty car night.
"I counted 40 Corvettes myself," Johnson said, noting there were Corvette clubs from Pittsburgh and the Mahoning Valley that showed up. "We're going to change it around a little so it works better for us. Instead of GM and Ford nights we'll have a VW night, Corvair night and Mustang night. It's coming up on its 50th anniversary. We were pretty close to 100 sponsors, McGuiars Car Polish and Mothers auto waxes and polishes and Rockauto.com was a sponsor," he added.