CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories



By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

The Salvation Army's newest kitchen looks like any other kitchen. It's equipped with an oven large enough to cook a turkey, a microwave, a two-burner stove and a coffee pot.

The only difference between this kitchen and the one in the organization's community center is that the new kitchen is on wheels.

The mobile kitchen has equipment large enough to feed an army: For example, the coffee pot holds three gallons of liquid.

The Salvation Army on Thursday unveiled its Disaster Canteen, which was purchased recently to help during emergency situations both in Northeast Mississippi and elsewhere in the country.

The $75,000 canteen was ordered in October and was picked up by the Salvation Army this week. Capt. Keath Biggers said the canteen will replace a trailer that he called a "dinosaur."

"It was outdated to say the least," he said. "This new canteen is the nicest one that I know of in a three-state area."

The old trailer, which was used during emergency efforts in Dothan, Ala., after Hurricane Opal last October, was a stationary unit and victims had to trek to the unit. The new disaster canteen will be able to go where the victims are.

Biggers said the white vehicle, embossed with the Salvation Army logo, will hold two passengers and can be road-ready within an hour. The new canteen comes with a 48-gallon fresh-water tank and a 50-gallon wastewater tank.

The canteen, the only one in the state north of Jackson, comes outfitted with a generator in case power is unavailable in the place where a disaster has struck. On the outside of the truck is a light for nighttime relief efforts. A sliding window is used to serve food and coffee.

Biggers said the road to getting a new canteen has been a long one.

"We had been near the bottom of the list in getting a disaster canteen," he said. The Salvation Army in Tupelo applied for funding for the canteen with the Regional Office of the Salvation Army. To get moved up on the list, Biggers said the local Salvation Army applied for and received a grant from CREATE Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization in Tupelo. The CREATE grant was for $9,375; the remaining $65,625 for the canteen came from the Salvation Army's Regional Office, he said.

Buddy Parham, president of CREATE, said the foundation was established to help improve the quality of life in the community. Parham said the CREATE board decided the canteen could help improve the quality of life during emergency situations.

Looking at the shiny stainless steel interior of the canteen, Zell Long, a member of the Salvation Army's Advisory Board, said it was a long time in coming. "I think it enables the Salvation Army to do more and to assist people in emergency situations," she said.

Benny Harrell, an employee of the Salvation Army, was one of the volunteers who traveled to Alabama for Hurricane Opal relief efforts last fall. He said relief workers had to use another unit's mobile canteen in addition to the Tupelo unit's trailer.

"We decided then we needed one," Harrell said. "It could have been used in emergencies like the big ice storm we had a few years ago."

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