Story last updated at 4:33 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Disaster van visits Wells Fargo
R. J. Kelly
Managing Editor

photo: business
  Photo by R. J. Kelly, Homer News
Julie Woodworth, manager of the Homer branch of Wells Fargo, chats with Salvation Army officials last Friday in the bank's parking lot. Wells Fargo donated $125,000 to pay for the mobile kitchen van.  
Think of it as something like a military mess hall in a bread truck crossed with a roadside restaurant and you have an idea of how capable The Salvation Army's two new mobile kitchens can be at feeding disaster victims.

One of two first-in-Alaska 26 1/2 foot vans stopped at the Wells Fargo bank in Homer last Thursday as part of a tour of the Kenai Peninsula to show off the $125,000 vehicle fully funded by a donation from Wells Fargo in Alaska.

Similar mobile kitchens just recently left Ground Zero at the site of the World Trade Center disaster where they were used to feed exhausted workers there, according to Jack Gwaltney, development director for The Salvation Army in Alaska.

"They were serving 3,000 people a day," Gwaltney said.

Equipped with a commercial-size range, griddle and oven, microwave and large coffee urns and refrigerator, the new Alaska kitchens were specially designed in California and factory tested for arctic conditions with extra heaters and generators.

A welcome sight at the scenes of destruction from hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters in the Lower 48, Homer Salvation Army Capt. Erik Hoogstad recalled using similar mobile units that were the first fully equipped responders during relief operations in Morgan, La. when Hurricane Andrew hit Louisiana after leaving a wake of destruction in Florida in 1992.

"We were the first there by three days," Hoogstad recalled.

New on the Alaska scene, and based in Anchorage, the mobile kitchens are designed to be ready to reach anywhere on the road system in a matter of hours, Gwaltney said. The group is also exploring ways to reach areas off the road system by boat or aircraft, he said.

The second mobile kitchen was paid for by a combination of national and state Salvation Army funds and by donations by Anchorage citizens, he said.