A systems programmer, real estate appraiser, homemaker and construction company co-owner have joined forces to cruise the Arkansas River Valley this summer with a cause.
Tom and Jacquie Green and David and Janis Elms have always enjoyed giving back to the community, and have found a way to kick back, let their hair down and get a bit goofy with the community while doing so.
About four months ago, the two couples launched Kona Ice of Arkansas River Valley, a decked-out, mobile shaved ice truck with a corporate philosophy of giving back.
The group caters to the communities along the Arkansas River from Russellville to Vilonia. Each franchisee can have up to a 100,000 population per truck.
“When we do birthday parties the little girls scream with excitement when they see us coming down the street,” Jacquie said. “We still have our day jobs, but we’re Kona Queens in the off hours.”
Kona Ice of Arkansas River Valley is one of four franchisees in Central Arkansas. Janis said all of the franchisees work together.
“If someone calls for an event and we’re booked, we’ll make sure someone is there,” she said. “Everybody works together for the greater good.”
Kona Ice has a corporate business model that allows franchisees to give back to members of their community whether it be donating a portion of sales to a local school or stopping by a baseball field and serving free Kona Ice.
Since the company was founded in 2007, it has raised more than $17 million for local communities in more than 40 states.
Tom donates $200 out of his paychecks each month to United Way, but said he never knows exactly how his money is being spent.
“This allows us to bridge that gap,” he said.
The couples were training at Kona Kollege in Florence, Kentucky when a tornado tore through Faulkner County destroying hundreds of homes and killing 15 people on April 27.
The day they got back, a fellow Kona Ice franchisee Phil Weaver, called and asked if the group wanted to get involved with tornado relief efforts.
Since the group didn’t have a truck of their own yet, they stocked Weaver’s truck with bottled water and went out with him, handing out water and donating bags of ice to those in need.
The first week the group’s truck arrived, they took it to a community carnival in Vilonia where they gave away more than $800 in Kona Ice.
That same week, they donated a portion of sales, about $300, to the Greenbrier Athletic Association when they sold Kona Ice at softball game.
Tom said a Kona Ice franchisee typically donates 20-25 percent of its profits to school fairs, baseball leagues, church events, corporate outings, weddings and other organizations.
“It depends on the need and circumstances,” he said.
The group said they are hoping to help rebuild the community of Vilonia while also growing their business.
“Vilonia got hurt pretty bad about the same time we picked up the truck,” David said. “We want to be involved in rebuilding the Vilonia youth sports complex through labor and monetary donations.”
Kona Ice of Arkansas River Valley has raised more than $2,000 for various organizations so far.
For more information visit Kona Ice of Arkansas River Valley on Facebook.