Passion City volunteers aid The Salvation Army in Atlanta

Passion City volunteers aid The Salvation Army in Atlanta

By: David Ibata

The members of Passion City Church were back this year to serve meals, plant shrubs and run a vacation Bible school – among other service projects – for Salvation Army installations in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now in its fourth year, the church’s #LOVEATLANTATOGETHER event goes for a week in June. About 4,500 people partnered with 110 community organizations to complete 330 projects – including 449 people for 28 projects at The Salvation Army. That’s up from about 50 partners and 100 projects when the outreach began.

“We started really with a dream and vision to reach the city, and hopefully multiple cities, to inspire people to a lifestyle of service and really start mobilizing them to unify around their communities,” said Dana Brennan, director of local engagement and community groups with the Atlanta-based Passion City.

In the beginning, Brennan said, some people already were volunteering, but many weren’t – not necessarily by fault of their own, “but maybe they didn’t know how to get connected to an organization. We knew if we could build a platform and a way for people to be more connected to the champions around our city … we could create some uncommon bonds.”

As a city church concerned about homelessness, addictions and other social ills, Passion City quickly thought of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area Command when it was lining up the first LOVE ATLANTA projects.

At the Marietta, Georgia, Corps, for example, Passion City volunteers this year helped run the summer camp – “playing with kids, teaching lessons and building relationships,” Brennan said. At the Red Shield Shelter Harbor Light Corps in downtown Atlanta, “we were a little more hands-on; we led and ran a vacation Bible school for the children there.”

Volunteers also did landscape maintenance and served dinner at the shelter; ran a VBS at Atlanta Temple Corps; and helped at The Salvation Army Bellwood Boys & Girls Club.


Young people meet a need in Owensboro, Kentucky

Young people meet a need in Owensboro, Kentucky

By: David Ibata

When failures in the mains cut off all the tap water in Owensboro, Kentucky, a little over a year ago, The Salvation Army mobilized volunteers to deliver bottled water to people in need. The helpers included about a half-dozen youth.

“As we delivered water, people asked us if we had food, too,” said Corps Sergeant Major Lori Thurman. “One of the teens turned to me and said, well, why don’t we have food?”

The sergeant major reached out to two pizzerias. The next day, the youth handed out water and pizza. City water was restored after several days, and the crisis passed. But the seed of an idea was planted.

Now, every Wednesday evening, eight to 15 young people in the Owensboro Corps CANteen Program get together to prepare and deliver food to more than 100 residents in need.

“The kids saw a need and wanted to help,” Sergeant Major Thurman said. “They really are the heart of this program. They do the hard work: Packing the bags, loading the van, cleaning up afterward. I just drive the van.“

Some of the youth are corps cadets. Others are from Owensboro High School, where Sergeant Major Thurman teaches social studies, or helpers at the summer day camp program.

One recent Wednesday, the Tri-State Food Bank donated pre-cooked pork burgers. A local bakery donated buns. The kids, working in the corps kitchen, heated the meat, put it on buns and packaged hot pork sandwiches with potato chips for that evening’s distribution.

Pizza also has been a popular menu item. Papa John’s and 54 Pizza Express are still donating pizzas certain weeks. Compass Counseling, a local counseling service, wrote a check for $180 to cover the cost of 30 pies another week.

Food goes to three populations: homeless residents; families in transitional housing – “parents and three or four kids in a one-bedroom hotel room”; and Somali, Burmese and Thai refugees who were settled in Owensboro and are struggling to make it in their new homeland, Sergeant Major Thurman said.

“We’re really trying to give them hope that there’s a way out of their situation,” she said. “I would like to see the people we are ministering to help us reach more people. They know where the others are.”

The weekly visits from The Salvation Army have borne fruit: Five children have started attending corps programming including vacation Bible school, Sunday school and, on Monday evenings, Sunbeams, Adventure Corps and Girl Guards. One man volunteered to ring bells at Christmas and has been attending the corps off and on; another applied to work in the thrift store.

Taking things to the next level, the corps is one of five finalists for two $100,000 Impact 100 Owensboro grants. The grant would go toward a kitchen upgrade so the corps can prepare more food and serve more people, as well as gym renovations. Grant recipients will be announced in October.

All this, because some young people wanted to make a difference.

“Kids want to help, they want to be involved,” the sergeant major said. “We’re just giving them the voice and the power to do it. They have great ideas; they just want to be heard.

“I never thought two years ago I’d be doing this, but through this food ministry, we’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the community.”


Food outreach in West Virginia seeks to create dependency on Christ

Food outreach in West Virginia seeks to create dependency on Christ

By: David Ibata

Hunger is an issue close to Lieutenant Dennis Smith’s heart: His mother told him of growing up in Korea when it was occupied by the Japanese, separated from her family at age 11, living on the streets and cooking and selling rice so she’d have money to buy her own food.

“It breaks my heart to know there’s a kid not getting a meal,” the lieutenant said. He and his wife, Lieutenant Jane Smith, are corps officers at Mercer County Corps in Princeton, West Virginia. “We hear so many different stories.”

One day this past spring, three members of the local Hiawatha Baptist Church came calling to ask if The Salvation Army would accept and distribute surplus food as it became available. The corps jumped at the chance.

“I call them our three wise men; they showed up bearing gifts,” Lieutenant Dennis said. “It started with a quarter-truck load of ice cream sandwiches.”

Since then, a box truck from time to time comes around to do a community food drop.

“It can bring anything from pizzas to Hot Pockets to packages of sausages to frozen vegetables to hot dogs to luncheon meats,” Lieutenant Dennis said. “We’re now trying to round up more freezers so we can store food and schedule a regular distribution one day a week.”

For now, though, it’s a mad scramble.

“Let’s say it’s a Thursday; they’ll call and say we’ll be there in an hour,” Lieutenant Dennis said. “I call in our volunteers, and they help me unload the truck and put things in the freezers.” When they run out of freezer space, “we’ll set up six tables like a grocery store so people can pick what they want.”

The corps then sends out a blast to the community by email and Facebook. With the food distributions, the corps has gone from fewer than 300 Facebook “likes” to nearly 1,400. The corps typically will serve 150 to 200 families a week.

But doesn’t giving away free food risk creating a dependency?

“That’s already happened,” the lieutenant said. “People call and ask, what time is the food coming? We have to explain that it’s not every week; it’s whenever they have food to give us. … It’s the same dependency we develop with the community when we give clothes out of the thrift store or help people with their utility bills.”

“What we’re doing to control some of that is to lower the amount of food people can take” – limiting a household to 18 items, three from each of the six tables, so a family doesn’t load up on all Hot Pockets or take more than it needs.

A greater principal is at work, Lieutenant Dennis said: “We want to foster a dependency on the love of Christ – a dependency that people know if there’s a need, we will do our best to take care of them.”

He estimated that since beginning the food ministry, the corps has seen an increase of as much as 20 percent in social services, to people who had no prior contact with The Salvation Army. The corps’ mission field is Princeton, Bluefield and a five-county region of rural West Virginia whose economy took a hit when the coal mines closed.

“We regularly invite people to come to church,” Lieutenant Dennis said. “We pray for them, and with them. Our hope is, this can become much, much bigger than just handing out food. Through this, people have started recognizing not just me in the community, but The Salvation Army in the community, and they’re very thankful.”


New hope graces weary hearts at Southern Territorial Bible Conference

New hope graces weary hearts at Southern Territorial Bible Conference

By: Major Frank Duracher

It was old meets new as the 2019 Southern Territorial Bible Conference marked its 50th appearance at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, with a study of the Book of Ezekiel and the theme “New Hope and New Hearts.”

The week’s three major speakers were Dr. Bill Ury, Diane Ury and Dr. Chris Lohrstorfer. Other instructors included Steve Carter (ARC special guest), Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, and Major Sarah Nelson.

The Sunday night meeting featured The Jesus Theater, a creative arts presentation of the gospel from creation to redemption. Utilizing simple props, such as dozens of colorful kites, four wooden boxes and black garbage bags, the cast of young adults from five divisions gave a moving overview of God’s intention for man’s soul to soar in sweet communion with him. The altar was lined by scores of men and women seeking this new hope. It would not be the last time the Mercy Seat was so crowned this week.

The chief secretary, Colonel Bukiewicz, preached in Monday morning’s first session. Drawing from Hebrews chapter 9, the chief laid the foundation for the rest of the teachers with “Hope for the Heart.”

“It’s all about transformation that only Christ can give,” he said. “A change of our heart-heart perspective is our desperate need. Only the blood of Christ has power tocleanse, forgive, restore and renew. That’s what this week is all about. His blood makes my new heart possible!”

Tuesday evening was Soldiers’ Night, led by newly-installed Territorial Sergeant-Major Jeremy Rowland. Rowland’s installation, along with that of Terri Neville as A/TSM, made it possible to acknowledge the four years of service of TSM John Reeves.

ARC Night (Thursday) is a perennial favorite at SBC. God’s redemptive and regenerating power was told in the testimonies of three ARC alumni: Todd Quick (Tampa ARC), Captain Stephen Correira (San Antonio ARC; now Jacksonville ARC administrator) and Star Sullivan (Memphis ARC.)

Carter preached on “Regeneration” using Matthew 19:27-30 and Titus 3:5.

“The word palingenesia means ‘genesis again,’” Carter said. “It is renewal. It is restoration to what God intends for us. It is a recapturing of that early joy we once felt; or a double portion of God’s power, like Elisha!”

Quoting William Booth, Carter said, “The greatness of a man’s power is in the measure of his surrender.” He also warned against the danger of a “comfortable snuggery,” as cautioned by Catherine Booth.

“You can ask God for palingenesis in your life – a double portion – a genesis again that can happen tonight—right now!” Carter urged.

Youth Night (Friday) is another highlight at SBC. Under the direction of Captains Ken and Jessie Chapman, in their 22nd year in that role, and their staff, this year’s musical was an incredible production of “Come Alive! A Vast Army!” (directed by Bethany Farrell).

The SBC youth had been studying Ezekiel 37, and their musical message was that God can bring a vast army to life, even to a valley of dry, dead bones.

Major Nelson’s sermon on Saturday morning came from Psalm 103 and Ezekiel 3. Calling every Christian a “watchman,” she stated that “hopelessness invokes fear” and that “the Church must never be second-inline in offering hope to the world!”

“God is sparing nothing in letting us know that we can rely on his power and blessing. He can do it again – and do it again in us!” Major Nelson said.

The climax came in Saturday night’s holiness meeting, led by Commissioner Barbara Howell. The congregation’s singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy” set the tone for Commissioner Willis Howell’s sermon, “The Heart of the Problem.”

“The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart,” the territorial commander summarized. Whether in our physical heart or spiritual heart, we tend to self-diagnose, and that’s usually a misdiagnosis.

“Spiritually speaking,” he continued, “it always comes down to a ‘heart issue.’ You may say, I may be strong-willed … I have an anger problem … I tend to be jealous and envious. But you are misdiagnosing the problem – it’s a heart issue! Yours is a heart that needs to be sanctified!” Commissioner Howell said.

Using a Southern colloquialism, he said, “Whatever’s down in the well is gonna come up in the bucket!”

God tells us to be holy because he is holy. “He can make us new. This is not what God wants from us; but for us!”

Major Frank Duracher, former writer for The War Cry and Southern Spirit, is a retired Salvation Army officer living in North Carolina.


Southern EDS units mobilized to respond to Hurricane Dorian

Southern EDS units mobilized to respond to Hurricane Dorian

As The Salvation Army in the Caribbean responded to Hurricane Dorian’s onslaught in the Bahamas, where dozens died and tens of thousands were left homeless, Southern Territory Emergency Disaster Services mobilized.

The Atlantic states were spared the worst of the storm. Yet many coastal areas were ordered evacuated as Dorian approached. Thousands fled their homes, and the Army was there to help.

The first week of September, Salvationists in the Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina divisions provided food and hydration to first responders and evacuees at command posts, churches, community centers and shelters and offered emotional and spiritual care when called upon.

As of Tuesday morning, Sept. 10, the three divisions had served 33,843 meals, 44,934 drinks and 25,041 snacks in the Dorian response, and had provided emotional and spiritual care to 3,008 people. Forty-eight cleanup kits and 145 personal hygiene kits were handed out, and employees and volunteers put in more than 3,690 total hours of service.

Tuesday, 49 canteens were assigned; five were in service in eastern North Carolina, where Dorian made landfall with widespread flooding.

Meanwhile, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the philanthropic giving arm of the Atlanta soft drink company, pledged $400,000 to The Salvation Army to provide immediate resources for emergency food and shelter for the Bahamas..


Salvation Army Family Store opens in Tampa’s Town ‘n Country

Salvation Army Family Store opens in Tampa‘s Town ’n Country

By: S. Richard Hodder

The new Salvation Army Family Store & Donation Center opened Aug. 3 at 8519 W. Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa, Florida.

During the store’s ribbon cutting ceremony, Majors John and Katherine Reed, Tampa ARC administrators, emphasized the good that the six Family Stores are doing in the communities of Brandon, Lakeland, South Tampa, Tampa, Town ‘n Country and Wesley Chapel. Majors Gary and Elizabeth Wilson, who lead all 23 adult rehabilitation centers throughout the USA Southern Territory, also welcomed the store’s first customers.

Named for its location, the Town ‘n Country Family Store promotes the Tampa Bay Area’s sustainability efforts to care for the environment by recycling items people no longer want. What once was taking up valuable storage space in homes and businesses can now be donated to the store to be recycled and in turn keep more gently used items from being transported to waste collection sites.

The store also enables people on tight budgets to purchase necessary items they normally could not afford. For example, many clothing items, some manufactured by name brands, cost only a few dollars. In addition, when people shop on any Wednesday, they can buy clothes, shoes, belts, ties and linens for 50 percent off their normal prices during the weekly Family Day Sale.

Besides serving donors and shoppers patronizing the store, the revenue generated helps those who have lost the ability to care for themselves. Ravaged by substance afflictions, people can rebuild their lives at The Salvation Army Tampa Adult Rehabilitation

Center without having any out-of-pocket costs. The store’s funds help cover all their expenses at the ARC for up to one full year, where they participate in a long-term, faith-based, 12-step, residential rehabilitation program to receive the aid and education needed to transform into productive members of society.

At the Tampa ARC, hurting people find a safe place to heal their broken lives. Over 40 percent of the residents stay at least six months to graduate from the basic rehabilitation program. Living in a clean, wholesome setting with compassionate staff and sponsors to lean on, 195 women and men get a second chance to become healthy in mind, body and spirit.

Richard Hodder is the community relations and development coordinator for the Tampa ARC.


Greenway provides ministry opportunities in Atlanta

Greenway provides ministry opportunities in Atlanta

By: David Ibata

Caleb Louden, a Salvation Army mission specialist, and two police officers struggled across jagged rocks and grasping underbrush in the early morning darkness of a deep ravine one day last December. Flashlights in hand, they glimpsed a figure in a sleeping bag in the space just beneath a highway bridge.

They made the man an offer: Leave the homeless encampment – about to be displaced by a regional trail project – and go to the shelter at the Red Shield Harbor Light Corps in Atlanta, Georgia, where trail organizers would pay $10 a day for 120 days to sponsor him. The man gratefully accepted.

Later, he told Louden what he’d been doing just before they found him.

“He told me he’d been homeless for many years and had been struggling spiritually, knowing that he wasn’t living the way God wanted him to live,” said Louden, of the Atlanta Temple Corps in Brookhaven, Georgia. “In the moments before we showed up, he finally said, ‘Alright God – I give up. I surrender. I want to be obedient to your will for my life.’

“He was praying with his eyes closed. When he opened them, there we were.”

The man was one of 10 individuals who agreed to move to the Red Shield shelter. There, they had a warm bed; food, clothing and medical care; and, if they wished, spiritual counseling, job training and help overcoming substance abuse. For two individuals – one had a stroke at the shelter, and another was near kidney failure – the move probably saved their lives.

Brookhaven, a city northeast of Atlanta, is building the first phase of a multi-use recreational path called the Peachtree Creek Greenway. The trail follows the North Fork of Peachtree Creek, which runs directly behind the Atlanta Temple Corps and Southern Territorial Headquarters.

The Army is letting Brookhaven create a trailhead and parking lot on part of its campus, as well as a 14-by-160-foot mural on a retaining wall it owns; the municipality has applied for a $60,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to pay for the painting.

In the weeks leading up to the December groundbreaking ceremony for the project, city officials realized they had homeless people living under several bridges.

Brookhaven City Manager Christian Sigman, Project Executive Moe Trebuchon and Brookhaven Police Sergeant Jacob Kissel did not want to simply evict the campers. Seeking a more humane course of action, they contacted Captain Kenneth Argot, Atlanta Temple Corps officer.

The corps has been serving its homeless neighbors for about 10 years with Showers and Laundry Time with Devotions – SALT’D. Once a week, people are invited to come in for a hot shower, a change of clothes and a supply of food. They also can drop off laundry; the corps will wash their clothes and have them ready for pick-up the following week.

SALT’D has about 30 regulars, some walking eight miles to the corps.

Louden described three types of homeless people he’s encountered: those struggling with substance abuse, others in financial difficulty, and a few with severe mental health challenges. When crisis hits, a person without a good support network can easily become homeless, he said.

Kissel and Louden made several visits to the camps, handing out water and snacks and speaking with residents to win their trust. In the end, besides six persons assisted by Brookhaven for four months, The Salvation Army sponsored four more homeless individuals to move to Red Shield for two months.

Some have since gotten jobs and permanent places to live; others have found alternate living arrangements or assistance from agencies such as the VA. The former homeless encampments are empty as the trail nears completion.

“I think about Jesus saying the poor will always be among you,” Louden said. “People have it in their heads that in a major urban setting, you can push homeless people out and that ends the problem. I don’t think that’s realistic. There are lots of places people can live outdoors; and every day, someone new becomes homeless. We are here to meet each need in Jesus’ name.”


Salvation Army supporter in Jacksonville, Florida brightens lives

Salvation Army supporter in Jacksonville, Florida brightens lives

By: Antoinette Vitale

Richard Stetina has fond memories of going to parks as a child. He still can recall every detail of the ones that are most special to him. When he took a tour of The Salvation Army’s Towers Center of Hope and the Red Shield Lodge shelter for women and families, the playground made an impression on him – but not for the right reasons.

It was old, in disrepair and clearly in need of some love. After he went home, the playground kept coming up in his mind. Finally, he decided that he needed to do something about it.

“I went home, and I guess it was two or three days before I started thinking about it again,” Stetina said. “And I thought, you know, I could so something that would be better. I made my proposal, it was accepted, and here we are today.”

Stetina could have just written a check and felt good about the difference he made. But he isn’t that kind of fellow. He researched the best playgrounds and the best building materials and imagined what would provide the best playground experience for the children, drawing from his own happy memories. When the time came to tear out the old playground and build the new, Stetina put in hours of his own sweat equity.

The result of his labor of love is incredible. Hope Park is now a vibrant and engaging playground of the highest quality. The children who stay at the Red Shield Lodge now bound out of the doors and play with abandon on a playground created with an enormous level of care. Stetina designed the entire experience of the playground with intention.

“What I tried to do here was to incorporate some of the things that I remember from the days that I visited parks,” he said. “We’ve incorporated a mural on the perimeter wall which has some phrases and inspirational words that hopefully the children and parents can take with them. Maybe it will be inspirational enough that it will change their lives a little bit.”

Hope Park is not the only thing Stetina has created that will change the lives of shelter residents and other Salvation Army clients in the Jacksonville area. He is also providing funding through his two endowments to enable veterans and other adult clients to continue their education or job skills training so they can build a better life. Stetina’s sustaining gifts support The Salvation Army’s local Pathway of Hope program that offers participants the opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty. The overarching goal of the program is to provide participants the order to become more stable and self-sufficient. In addition to creating Hope Park, Stetina has also created a third endowment to provide for the future maintenance of the park, ensuring its preservation.

At the center of the Hope Park project for Stetina, from the start, was the children.

“Really, the kids here are the innocent victims of their particular situation,” he said. “I thought if I could turn a frown into a smile, that would be an achievement. Who knows, maybe they’ll be brought back someday having remembered the good times that they had here and want to be a part of this organization in some fashion. You never know where things like this will lead.”

Antoinette Vitale is the community relations and special events coordinator for the Northeast Florida Area Command.


The Salvation Army of Jackson, Mississippi celebrates a good day for doing good

The Salvation Army of Jackson, Mississippi celebrates a good day for doing good

By: Richard Daniel

“Good afternoon, thank you so much for calling The Salvation Army’s ‘Do Good Day’ phone bank!”

That was the greeting callers heard as they phoned The Salvation Army of Jackson, Mississippi, on the inaugural Do Good Day event. It was a “Mediathon,” where for 18 hours, with phone lines open as early as 4:30 a.m., the community called, texted and hand-delivered cash to help support life-changing services for people in need.

Donations began early as every broadcast media outlet in the city came out to partner with and support the work of The Salvation Army. As live reports flooded the airwaves in the morning, drivers on their way into work could hear the message, “It’s Do Good Day” on local radio across the dial. Billboards lit up the early morning streets and stayed running throughout the day, reminding the community that June 27, 2019, was a very good day to do the most good for their community.

The event was not the first of its kind. But it was the first with such a broad reach in the Jackson community. With support from local businesses and local media, Do Good Day was the story of the day across the Jackson metro area.

“It’s a broad range, multi-media event to raise awareness and money for the missions of The Salvation Army,” said Jennifer Bennett, Jackson Salvation Army development director and event organizer. “We say missions because there is a lot we are doing,”

And those missions are many. The Salvation Army mission is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.” Those needs can include something as immediate as emergency services or as simple as a meal or as enriching as art education for the next generation. The message of Do Good Day was that the community can help to support these services as volunteers and as donors.

It was a message heard throughout the Jackson area as media outlets, in partnership with The Salvation Army, helped raise awareness all day. More than a simple news story, it was an event seen and felt throughout the community. It was a day where people could see the work of The Salvation Army as more than Red Kettles at Christmas. It was a day when the mission of The Salvation Army became the mission of the people of Jackson. And it was a day where those people were able to raise $50,000 in donations.

The all-day media event that helped raise that money was also a tool for raising awareness of how The Salvation Army is making a difference in the communities they serve. Donations can help feed and house people in need. But they can also make a difference in the lives of children, and of families, and give donors a chance to do good every day.

Richard Daniel is the media relations specialist for The Salvation Army in Jackson, Mississippi.


Salvation Army EDS rolls out new vehicle for new needs

Salvation Army EDS rolls out new vehicle for new needs

By: David Ibata

When Hurricane Michael walloped the Florida Panhandle and south Georgia last October, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services team learned valuable lessons about food and logistics.

“We worked closely with Operation Barbecue Relief, which set up a massive field kitchen,” said Jeff Jellets, EDS coordinator for the Southern Territory. “We found out that while central field kitchens could produce tens of thousands of meals a day, getting the food to the places where they were needed became a challenge. We really needed more capacity.”

The Army needed a different kind of rapid response unit. That’s the four-wheel-drive truck, the little sibling of the mobile feeding unit (canteen), capable of entering places inaccessible to larger vehicles due to damaged roads, downed trees and other obstacles. Rapid response vehicles usually don’t cook meals but deliver food prepared elsewhere.

The Southern Territory gets them from Craftsmen Industries of St. Louis and its Schantz Manufacturing subsidiary, which design and fabricate custom mobile kitchens for the fair and festival market, canteen services and institutional kitchens industry.

“After Hurricane Michael, we invited Craftsmen engineers to an EDS meeting of multiple divisions in Florida,” Jellets said. “We took one of the older rapid response units and said this is what we like, but fix this, and improve that. Out of that meeting, Craftsmen came up with design specs for a new unit. We reviewed them and gave the go-ahead to build a prototype.”

The vehicle is a modified Ford F450 diesel truck with a mobile food module behind the driver’s cab, fabricated out of aluminum and stainless steel, bolted to the chassis, and clad in striking new “Hope is on the way” red-and-white Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services graphics. According to John Warren, account executive of Kitchens Anywhere, a brand of Craftsmen and Schantz, the vehicle has a 16,500-pound payload, holds 550 bottles of ice water and up to six gallons of coffee, comes with a Class 4 hitch, and can be ordered with various options including emergency lights. Turnaround time from order to delivery currently is eight weeks.

The Georgia Division is trying out the new model. If all goes well, it will soon be available for purchase by other divisions.

“Essentially, we’ve doubled the (food) capacity,” Jellets said. “If an older unit could serve 1,500 meals a day, these new units should serve 3,000, minimally.”

Both sides of the truck open for storage and service. One side has drinks in bins lower and shallower than previously, so a person can more easily reach in and retrieve a bottle of water. The other side has food containers on extending shelves strong enough to support the weight of food trays set up in a buffet line.

“Another nice thing about the new unit is instead of serving people through a window, you’re standing outside and having direct interaction with survivors,” Jellets said. “As they step up, you can fix them a plate and talk to them.”

Two volunteers can handle the food serving, leaving officers free to provide spiritual and emotional care. The truck also has more space for emergency supplies like cleanup and hygiene kits.

The Georgia Division has 21 canteens, and the new prototype is its first-ever rapid response vehicle, said Lanita Lloyd, divisional disaster services director.

“In Georgia, a lot of our land is rural, or it’s along the coast,” Lloyd said. “You’re looking at areas with lots of salt and sand. This vehicle is four-wheel drive and it’s smaller than a canteen, so it’s made to go into areas a canteen can’t necessarily go.”

Lloyd said she also appreciates the greater food-carrying capacity, and the strong shelves that reduce the need for heavy lifting. An anonymous donor provided funds for the prototype and four additional rapid response units. “This is really an exciting time for Georgia, to be able to supply our communities with vehicles that can reach rural areas and responders and survivors of disasters.”