Las Vegas canteen assists in fire relief

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Nevada couple pilots mobile kitchen to Ramona, Calif.

by Kathy Lovin –

Left to right: Captain David Leonard from the San Diego Kroc Center; Cal Groom, EDS Volunteer from Las Vegas; Ken Gelhorn; Dr. Susan Parker; Dr. Skip Parker

Dr. Skip Parker can hardly contain his excitement. He and his wife Susan, also a doctor, are on the maiden voyage of The Salvation Army mobile kitchen from Las Vegas, Nevada.

The mobile kitchen, called a “canteen,” pulled out of The Salvation Army parking lot in Las Vegas on October 28 and made its way to Ramona, California, scene of some of the worst devastation of the 2007 Southern California wildfire disaster.

Once in Ramona, the mobile kitchen was fired up to begin preparing and serving hundreds of meals, snacks and drinks a day at FEMA’s Local Assistance Center where survivors go to register for government help and necessities of life from The Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

The kitchen on the 30-foot vehicle has a six burner commercial stove, two convection ovens, a 36-inch grill and two 1,000 watt microwave ovens. Powered by a 20 kilowatt diesel generator, the mobile kitchen is capable of preparing up to 3,000 meals a day and 27 gallons of coffee per hour. The generator and onboard propane and water tanks make it possible for the vehicle to operate independently, providing service in isolated areas. The vehicle is also the first mobile kitchen in the whole Salvation Army fleet that has “on-demand” hot water: a tankless system.

Dr. Skip is semi-retired from a career as a pain management specialist. His wife Susan’s medical specialty is pediatric nutrition, making her particularly well-suited to her role as the mobile kitchen’s chef.

They’ve volunteered with The Salvation Army for more than twenty years and have done disaster relief for the last two. In fact, it’s when they were deployed to Lake Charles, Louisiana in 2005 to help with relief efforts during Hurricane Rita that Dr. Skip said to himself, “Las Vegas needs its own mobile kitchen.”

When they returned from Louisiana, the Parkers set about making plans to get a canteen. They were so passionate about the project that they donated $5,000 in seed money themselves to get it started. Donors in Las Vegas gave another $75,000 and The Salvation Army headquarters in Phoenix matched that amount, making it possible to purchase the vehicle.

On September 11, 2007 the Parkers flew to New Jersey to pick up the mobile kitchen from the company who outfitted it for The Salvation Army. They drove it back to Las Vegas and got acquainted with all the features of the vehicle on the road home.

The Parkers couldn’t be happier. They’re making wholesome food and hot coffee to soothe body and soul. And, they’re doing it from a brand-spanking new mobile kitchen that will see years of faithful service with The Salvation Army to people in crisis.

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