OLD TOWN, Maine — Members of Old Town’s firefighters union said they were impressed and moved when Salvation Army volunteers turned up in their new canteen van to dispense hot coffee, food and other goodies during an ice water rescue training session with Orono rescue crews in February.
“It’s nice — you’d be surprised how much a hot cup of coffee can really do to help,” Chris Liepold, an Old Town firefighter and emergency medical technician, said Friday.
During a small gathering Friday afternoon at Old Town’s fire station on Brunswick Street, members of the Professional Firefighters of Old Town Local 1655 expressed their appreciation with a $500 donation to The Salvation Army in support of the canteen. They also invited the local media to help spread the word that the van is available.
According to Capt. Joshua Lyle of The Salvation Army in Bangor, the canteen van was fashioned from a 2008 Ford E-350 15-passenger van chassis. It was put on the road just a few months ago.
Though many of The Salvation Army’s canteen vans are about the size of a United Parcel Service delivery truck, Lyle said he chose the passenger van model because it was easier to drive in and out of narrow and back roads.
The back of the van houses a custom-made, fully equipped kitchen that includes a microwave, refrigerator, burners and a griddle, insulated tanks for coffee and water, bench seating and fold-down tables. With the equipment powered by propane and a generator, it can be used anywhere.
It cost $75,000 to buy, customize and equip the van, Lyle said.
The vehicle carries tents that can be set up to provide even more space for seating, eating or whatever is needed, Lyle said Friday afternoon.
The canteen van Lyle brought to the February training session is kept at The Salvation Army’s Broadway site. Provided by The Salvation Army’s Northern New England Division headquarters, it is one of only a handful in Maine.
With two others based in Portland and Lewiston, according to the organization’s Web site, the Bangor van serves northern and eastern Maine, Lyle said.
“This is not just for firefighters,” he said. The van is available to police, wardens, rangers, utility workers, victims and others affected by natural disasters, fires, accidents and other large-scale incidents.
What the people affected will be fed depends.
“It’s free and we give what we can,” Lyle said. “To be honest, it all depends on what we have in our building” in Bangor.
Though the service is free to those who need it, there is a cost for operating it.
That’s why the Old Town firefighters offered to help.
The Salvation Army is one of numerous nonprofit groups that the city’s 18 unionized firefighters support through the proceeds of their annual charity comedy show, which features standup acts from the Boston area, according to firefighter Adam Martell.