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Arlington diocesan Catholic Charities to share Mobile Response Center vehicle

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Thanks to a partnership with Catholic Charities USA and Ford Motor Company, Catholic Charities in Arlington, Washington and Baltimore will be able to provide curbside assistance to area homeless and poverty-stricken communities for one week each month.

Representatives from Ford Motor Company presented Catholic Charities USA with a Mobile Response Center vehicle at a press conference in Alexandria Aug. 22.

“We are grateful to Ford for their support of our mission to provide service to individuals and families in need,” said Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. “The Mobile Response Center vehicle will allow Catholic Charities to reach people who need basic necessities during times of disasters, as well as people in the D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia regions who struggle with homelessness every day.”

The vehicle, a 26-foot retrofitted Ford F550 cab and chassis outfitted by Dejana Truck and Utility in Baltimore, will deliver supplies, such as water, hygiene products, grocery gift cards and snack packages directly to the needy. During the winter, coats and blankets will be distributed.

Inside, the vehicle has shelves to store sleeping bags and blankets, folding tables and large quantities of bottled water. Locking compartments have drawers that are accessible from the interior and exterior for ease of handing out supplies.

There are two gas-powered generators and external power stations to allow 80 mobile phones to be charged simultaneously to enable communication with friends and family.

The Mobile Response Center vehicle eventually will be deployed to Houston to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey, according to Patricia Cole, vice president of communications for Catholic Charities USA.

Later this year, specialized trailers with washing machines and dryers will be available to attach to the vehicle, according to Cathy Hassinger, director of community services for Arlington’s Catholic Charities.

When it is not being used for disasters, it will rotate weekly between Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Charities in Arlington, Washington and Baltimore. 

Also present at the press conference were Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington; Bill McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore; Kim Burgo, senior director of disaster response operations for Catholic Charities USA; and Art Bennett, president and CEO of Arlington’s Catholic Charities.

Bennett said a big problem in the Diocese of Arlington is transportation, so it is better that they can go where the people are.

“I also think this will be a way of mobilizing the communities and parishes,” he said.

There will be a special focus on bringing services to rural parts of the diocese including King George, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Orange, Madison, Page, Shenandoah and Frederick counties.

“Pope Francis wants the church to be a field hospital (that) goes out and meets people where they are. This vehicle will help us do that,” said Bennett. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017