Dropping Ducks for 29 Years
Longtime Rubber Duck Regatta volunteer Jim Coates and his wife, Joan, moved to Greater Cincinnati in 1970 when P&G recruited him right out of graduate school. They raised their two children here, and it’s where Jim first got involved with Freestore Foodbank more than three decades ago.
It all started when Jim worked in corporate distribution at P&G. His section was involved with getting rid of surplus product, and they had two truckloads of laundry detergent. Jim worked with Freestore Foodbank staff to have the supplies delivered, and the staff distributed the detergent to struggling families.
Years later, “Freestore Foodbank called me and had a crazy idea of dropping some rubber ducks into the river,” Jim says. “I was happy to help. I’ve been here since the first rubber duck, and I’ve been involved every year since.”
To say Jim has “been involved” is a HUGE understatement. He’s been instrumental in figuring out how to get the ducks into the water, how to make them race, and how to fish them back out again. “I was in charge of making sure the ducks, crane and equipment got onto the bridge, and then I gave the signal to drop them,” Jim says.
In his time with the Rubber Duck Regatta, Jim has helped work through all kinds of “ducky drama.”
“The first year, the ducks wouldn’t float down the river,” Jim remembers. “We had to ask the fire department to help move them along with their fire hoses. Another year, we had a thunderstorm roll in and it blew the ducks toward Pittsburgh instead of Louisville.”
Through it all, what keeps Jim coming back is knowing the incredible impact the event has for our neighbors facing hunger. “The major thing is raising money for Freestore Foodbank, which feeds people,” Jim says. “Rubber Duck Regatta is a long day, but at the end of the day, feeding people keeps me involved.”