Despite urgent need for it this year because of disasters such as wildfires, floods and hurricanes, the Salvation Army's mobile kitchen sat motionless at the back of a parking lot near its Medford Citadel offices.
Bad tires, old paint, stolen propane tanks and myriad other issues kept the unit from being offered up when calls for help were sent to regional Salvation Army officials.
Volunteers and resources, no problem. Use of the region’s only mobile canteen, not so much.
“Our propane tanks have been stolen off of it, and when they were stolen some other damage was done that will need to be fixed. The tires need to be repaired or replaced. It has a lot of issues, and we need to retrofit the inside,” said Major Jason Koenig.
“These local canteens are designed to where we can walk into any situation ... and quickly open up and start cooking meals for the survivors of a disaster and for the first responders. It can be very functional when it’s up to speed. This one is currently not usable.”
Koenig, who came to Medford last year after more than a dozen years in Arizona and Mexico, said the mobile kitchen has not been operational for at least three years.
The unit, which he estimates is about 20 years old, could provide 1,500 to 2,000 meals during a regional disaster if it weren’t languishing in the downtown parking lot.
During recent disasters, Koenig said, local Salvation Army employees and volunteers were placed on standby.
“The way the Salvation Army is structured, we are put on standby when a disaster strikes. When all those fires occurred at once, we were told to be ready to serve at a moment’s notice. At that point, unfortunately, I had to report back and say this is the state of our trailer,” Koenig said.
“We can still cook meals in our building and throw them in a van and run it that way. The Salvation Army would never be hindered from providing aid, but to have the mobile trailer allows us to go into remote places where we would not otherwise be able to go and to be able to help even more.”
According to Salvation Army statistics, as of September the national organization had 104 emergency canteens providing help to more than 35,700 hurricane survivors. In just over a month, employees and volunteers put in 93,000 hours, served 572,000 meals and provided 8,711 food boxes.
Koenig estimated repairs for the mobile kitchen at around $6,000, including $1,000 for tires and expenses to fix vandalized portions of the unit, as well as adding a generator and painting the exterior.
“It’s been sitting there for a while, and it’s very sad. It’s like an old relic that nobody notices or thinks we would even use,” he said.
“We have to get it to where it’s operational so it can be used to respond to disasters.”
Donations can be mailed or dropped off at 304 Beatty St., Medford, 97501, by calling 541-773-6965, or online at www1.usw.salvationarmy.org/usw/www_usw_medford.nsf
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org