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Community rallies to help RVA Hot Dog Man create 'dream food truck'

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Posted at 12:40 AM, Feb 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 09:30:01-05

Watch the video report from WTVR CBS 6 Photojournalist Ian Ramprashad.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some know him as Jerome, but most folks affectionately call him the RVA Hot Dog Man, which is the name of his longtime business.

The Richmond native, who has been feeding thousands in the city for more than two decades, wants to continue his dream by upgrading his setup.

"I started with the vending machine and then once I did the vending, I started with a push cart hot dog stand. I went from that to a handmade wood trailer," Jerome Sanders said. "And now I want to go to the next level. This might be the final one. You know, I'm getting a little older now. I'm 57, so this right here is my dream, dream food truck."

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But turning that dream into a reality is very expensive, so some of Sanders' friends at Main Line Brewery have created an online fundraiser to help outfit his "dream food truck."

Gary McDowell, Shelly McDowell and Sterling Roberts stepped into help since Sanders came to their rescue so many times.

"I can't tell you how many times he bailed us out during the summer," Gary McDowell said.

Shelly McDowell said Sanders "always has a smile on his face."

"And if someone comes and they don't have the money to pay he goes, 'Don't worry about it. We'll catch up next time,'" Shelly McDowell said.

McDowell said that while Sanders has purchased his food truck, she estimated that outfitting the kitchen will likely cost between $25,000 to $30,000.

"We didn't want him to have to foot that bill by himself," Gary McDowell said.

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Gary McDowell, Shelly McDowell and Sterling Roberts

So the trio launched a GoFundMe campaign to outfit Jerome's truck.

"Jerome has a dream to upgrade from his current food trailer to a new food truck where he would be able to offer more food items to his menu," the fundraiser reads "He has purchased his new truck and has plans to remodel it all on his own! The most exciting addition Jerome would like to include in his new truck is installing deep fryers so that he can offer french fries, tater tots, corn-dogs, and an array of other delicious fried foods."

Sanders was floored by the gesture.

"Sterling said, 'Don't worry about it, buddy. We got you,'" Sanders remembered. "'We got you. You like family, we're going to take care of you. You took care of us, we're gonna take care of you.'"

Shelly McDowell said in retrospect they should have set a higher goal than $5,000.

"We just didn't want to sound greedy, but it's gonna take a lot more than $5,000 to get his truck geared up," Shelly McDowell said.

As of early Sunday, more than 120 people had donated more than $6,500 to help outfit the truck. By Sunday afternoon that total had climbed to more than $7,200 and by Monday morning 168 donors had contributed nearly $8,700.

Click here for more information or if you would like to make a donation.