Reading time: 5 minutes, 1000 words
Birds are delightful creatures. They arise at dawn, singing; they dance amidst the grass and trees; and they’re symbolic of going after dreams. Made mostly of feathers, they remind us of the delicacy of flight. And when a person takes courage, we say they’ve ‘spread their wings.’
Teresa Bird is a 25-year-old native of Minneapolis who’s staying true to her name, and flying. She’s handcrafting pies and sharing them from a 1969 Volkswagen bus while traveling the country. And in the process, she’s helping others discover their wings.
Teresa first developed a love for pie-making while spending time with her mom and sister in the kitchen. “I used to help my mom make pies, but I wasn’t allowed to make the crust, because it had to be perfect" she explains. "When my mom finally taught me, it was really special.”
Whether at parties, holidays, or community events, the Birds were known for bringing delicious, homemade pies. And Teresa took note of the love, laughter, and community that resulted. “Everybody loves pie,” she says. “Pie makes people happy.”
Teresa also had a thing for old Volkswagen buses. “When I was as young as five or six, I would browse the classifieds and drool over old VW vans,” she recalls. About that same time, Teresa spawned a dream that only a young girl could: to sell pie from a traveling VW bus. “It just seemed like a natural connection to me,” she beams.
But Teresa didn't force her dream. “I grew up thinking, ‘maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t,’” she admits. What she did do, though, was turn herself over to a cause bigger than herself and live spontaneously.
Shortly after earning a degree in education, Teresa worked for an NPO that helps troubled youth. But she became disillusioned, seeing that kids were being pushed through the system and their creativity squashed. Looking for a solution, she discovered that many of the teenage girls enjoyed cooking and baking, so she began taking them to her parent’s home and teaching them how to make pie.
“It was a good experience for these girls,” she explains. “When it comes to making pie, you can put whatever inside—it requires creativity. So these women had to think outside the box. There wasn’t a recipe that told them what ingredient to put inside. And when they shared their pies, and saw how much people enjoyed something they had made, it inspired them. And it was very rewarding for me.”
Following this experience, Teresa looked for other ways to use food for social good. She began researching and learned that there was more opportunity than she’d initially thought.
Soon after, she worked at Old Skool Café, a supper club located in San Francisco. The café employs at-risk 16 to 20-year-olds, with the goal of giving them skills and opportunities to change their lives. While there, Teresa helped with restaurant management and curriculum.
Traveling on, Teresa found herself in Pasadena, California, working with families at a community garden in a rough neighborhood. She did some catering and educational work, and found a home with four single moms sharing a small house. She became a part of their families, helping with groceries, dinners, homework, and shuttling.
Then, just a few weeks ago, Teresa happened upon a 1969 Volkswagen bus in beautiful condition. Remembering her girlhood dreams, she forked over her savings in exchange for the gem.
Her vision now palpable, Teresa reminisced with a friend one day about her childhood dream. That friend, Cat, whose husband is the bass player for Trapdoor Social, a band that was getting ready for a national tour, was inspired by Teresa’s story, and suggested that they follow the band in the VW and make Teresa’s dream a reality. It was a good opportunity to travel with a group—to have an itinerary—plus Cat offered to help. So with less than a week to ready, they hit the road.
In the past two weeks, Teresa has pushed the triumphant VW to Colorado Springs, Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, and onward. Her first stop, Provo, Utah, was where we met on the street, outside a small club. The VW sat parked like a sardine can on its side, peeled open, with happy people gathered around. And like Teresa envisioned, stories were shared. It was while eating pear and apricot pie that I was charmed by Teresa’s story.
If you're wondering what motivates Teresa, she explains, “There’s only so much time, and I want to make the world a better place. That motivates everything I do. I hate to sound cliché, but you only live once, so I try to make a difference in the lives of others. At the end of the day, we need to forget what we think is true, and connect more through stories.”
Teresa has just a couple stops left on tour. After that, it’s hard to say where she’ll be. But if you want to connect with Teresa and enjoy some to-die-for pie, you can visit her website (read the blog!), her Facebook page, or check if the tour is coming near you.
But be warned, if you visit Pie Is All You Need and want to take a tasty pie home, forget it. Teresa only sells by the slice. That way, you have to eat and visit. Because that’s when stories and dreams are shared.