In 2011, Dave Wolfsen decided to give something back.
Wolfsen raised $50,000 for the faith-based organization’s Disaster Response Services and another worthy group, Foods Resource Bank, by driving a restored 1937 Co-op tractor across the United States.
“Tractor Dave” entertained his fellow volunteers with tales from his trip after supper recently at the old Cordova VFW. Wolfsen, who returned home last week, was on one of the last teams from World Renew to work on tornado recovery projects in the city.
Wolfsen was an International Harvester dealer for 36 years before concocting an unusual plan for the antique tractor he had purchased for $50.
A friend’s invitation to join a tractor convoy from Michigan to Iowa inspired the idea for a 9,300 mile fundraising adventure.
“I put this route together. Then I had to get support. I thought, ‘If I’m going to do it, let’s do it for somebody important,’” Wolfsen said.
Wolfsen is a longtime member of the First Christian Reformed Church in Fremont, Mich. His business partner also happened to be a rapid responder for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, which recently changed its name to World Renew.
Wolfsen contacted Bill Adams, director of World Renew’s Disaster Response Services division. He also reached out to Food Resources Bank, a separate faith-based organization dedicated to increasing food security in developing countries.
Wolfsen set out solo from Fremont in June 2011. With 48 states to cover and a top speed of 30 miles per hour, he expected to be back in September.
However, Wolfsen’s progress was soon slowed by endless media interviews at every stop and 100-degree days.
He also had to unload the 20-foot camper trailer he was hauling because it became a burden on the antique tractor. Wolfsen decided to instead rely on motels, which he soon discovered were few and far between in rural America.
After several weeks on the road, Wolfsen returned to Fremont after making it to Maryland.
“I just couldn’t handle it. I was advised by more than one along the way, ‘The mountains are going to get tougher. You ain’t gonna make it,’” Wolfsen said.
Wolfsen was unwilling to give up his mission because of the outpouring of support he had received.
“No matter where I went, I had people standing in their front yards and on street corners. At red lights, people would run up and hand me money. It was unbelievable what was happening,” he said.
Wolfsen resumed his trip in July with friends following along in his 1954 International Harvester pick-up.
He arrived home safely in mid-August to much fanfare, having covered 13 states and 4,150 miles in 55 days.
Wolfsen gave 29 speeches during his journey to raise awareness of World Renew and the Foods Resource Bank and continues to spread the word about their respective causes everywhere he goes.