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The Story Behind Rymes Propane and the Pink Truck

Profile by Nina E. Ferry

Breast Cancer is a disease that is prevalent and doesn’t discriminate. To give back, Rymes Propane donates one cent per gallon sold by the pink-ribbon trucks. On the Vineyard, they round the figure up to $5,000 dollars and let the hospital allocate the funds where they need them–namely focusing on awareness. Recognizing and relating to the interconnectedness of a small community, John, Jim, and Tom Rymes, brothers and owners of Rymes Propane, came to the Vineyard a couple of years ago–a donation prospect already in mind–with a competitive business edge and an important message for the community.

With eight employees on Martha’s Vineyard and just under 170 in New Hampshire, Rymes Propane serves all of New Hampshire, Eastern Vermont, parts of Maine, the Berkshires and the Vineyard, where in many of those communities, they pay it forward. John says, “I couldn’t even tell you how many organizations we donate to. It’s been a family thing since the beginning. Both sets of my grandparents brought each of my parents up to return favors to the community where you’re raised. My father and my mother brought us up to do the same.”

Choosing to bring awareness to Breast Cancer, Rymes Propane features three shiny pink trucks in their fleet: one on the Island and two in New Hampshire. John says, “The pink was my brother Jim’s idea. He loves trucks in a way that only little boys can understand. While driving to the Midwest to pick up new delivery trucks, he started thinking about his family and his three daughters. When he got out there, he approached the manufacturer about painting one pink, but also making flashy. He wanted men to look at it and say: ‘WOW what a great looking truck’ and while looking at it, they’d get the message about Breast Cancer awareness. What he didn’t see was that it would be a much larger experience.”

The Rymes family chose Breast Cancer because, “you can talk to anyone and they’ll have a story about it–some happy, some heroic and some that are real sad. We had a number of employees who had family or friends who struggled with it. The original truck we came out with is named after a friend of our family’s sister,” says John.

To maintain the benevolence and spread the spirit of collaborating for the cause, the very expensive pink rigs are made up of donated parts from the manufacturers such as Dupont and Goodrich. Through bringing a pink truck to the National Propane show in Atlanta, GA, a few years ago, the Rymes family was able to inspire other national companies to follow suit. Now there are over 150 of these ‘trucks for causes’ all around the country, some even operated by Rymes' competitors. The family is still amazed and honored that Jim’s idea went so far.

When they first started, John wasn’t prepared for the level of comfort it would establish between the company and the community. He said, “people share with us. They call, write letters, wave to the drivers–even stop the drivers. We don’t hear a story everyday, but at least a few times a week. It brought a whole other human element and community connectedness to our donation practice. I remember when we had our first truck on the Island; I was approached by one of our customers, a man who was very well spoken and knowledgeable about the disease. Although I knew men could get Breast Cancer, I’ve learned it never seems real until you hear someone’s story.”

Although John spends most of his time in New Hampshire, he maintains a house here and often comes to the Vineyard for meetings and to check in with clients. John is a private pilot and can comute to the Vineyard from Concord NH in about an hour, weather perrimiting. Managing the office while he’s away are Jim Burke, Branch Manager, and Wendi Farmer, Customer Service. All Rymes Propane employees are invested in and proud of the company’s Breast Cancer Awareness initiative.

Never using the pink trucks as an advertising gimic, John hopes, “that this story inspires one person to think a second time about getting a mammogram. Business isn’t always about profit or expansion. We’re doing just fine without having a pink truck. We want them to act as symbols driving down the roads that stand out. I want people to question WHY we have a pink truck and instead of just being aware, I hope they do something about it–action and prevention are key.”

With dreams of the future Rymes generations taking over the business, the family will keep spreading good will for years to come. John says, “We already have the next generation of young Rymeses working for us–young ladies and young men who are already pitching in and helping to explain what we do.”