PULLMAN, Wash. - Long before WSU Head Football Coach Nick Rolovich even held practice with his new team, he’s left his mark on the community he now calls home.
Pullman, Washington, with a population of 34,506, is a college town.
“You have a lot of ups and downs and kind of once you learn how Pullman operates and the different peaks and valleys of the season you adjust to it,” explains John McCabe, owner of Hero’s N Sports Sandwich Shop in Pullman.
Towns like these have their own set of challenges inherently. Nearly two-thirds of the population of the town are students at Washington State University. So when the School suspended on-campus classes in March, the effects were felt city-wide, most notably with the town’s small businesses and restaurants.
“It seemed like every day things were changing,” says McCabe.
With no return to normalcy in sight, newly appointed Head Football Coach Nick Rolovich jumped into action.
On March 21 he tweeted, “football staff has made a decision. We will collectively support one eatery in Pullman each night. Tonight we dine with Pizza Perfection.
That was just the start. Over the next seven weeks, Rolovich hit countless restaurants buying meals for the community and tweeting out pick up locations and code words.
“We had heard rumors that Coach Rolovich doing that and then one day we got the call saying you’re up,” says Mike Wagoner, owner of Zoe Kitchen and Coffee and Cougar Country Drive-in. Wagoner has owned Zoe Coffee for 15 years.
“to see folks rise up and help their neighbors and help their community just makes you very proud to be living in Pullman, Washington I’ll tell you that and it makes me very proud to be a Coug,” says Wagoner.
Rolovich also dropped off meals for front line workers including breakfast for the Pullman Fire Department and Sella’s Calzones and Pizza for the nurses at Pullman Regional Hospital
“Everybody was just pleased and got a chance to meet him and again really delighted that he hasn’t even coached a game and he’s thinking about the community and making himself a part of it,” says Director of Marketing for the Pullman Regional Hospital Megan Guido.
Rolovich’s efforts not only fed those in need of a meal but also kept businesses busy when they needed it most.
“He was very pleasant, very supportive. He was like, ‘you guys are going to get busy after I tweet this,’ and we did so he was exactly right,” says McCabe. “We ended up seeing actually a lot of new people that came in like for the first time because of that. Hopefully, we can hook them and then they keep coming back.”
But the biggest impact was that Rolovich’s efforts inspired a grassroots movement called Pullman Serves it Forward.
“They’ve raised a tremendous amount of money and they give that money to the community action center and they in term go out and purchase gift cards from the different restaurants in town and give those to the folks that come to the food bank,” explains Wagoner.
“That’s one of the things that my family and I love about Pullman. The small town where people care about each other and willing to help each other and go that extra mile,” says McCabe.
Thanks to the movement started by Coach Rolovich, Pullman Serves it Forward has raised over $35,000 for the Pullman community. You can learn more or donate here.