The Salvation Army debuts new disaster response van in Hurricane Ian relief effort

By: Eric Short

FORT MYERS — The Salvation Army’s brand-new van emergency response unit (VRU) made its disaster relief debut on Tuesday, October 11, with a unit from Jackson, Mississippi serving at a Walmart in the hurricane ravaged city of Cape Coral, Florida. The VRU is a slimmed down unit from The Salvation Army’s mobile canteen and rapid-response units (RRU). There is minimal cooking capability onboard, with just a microwave and coffee maker. Instead, the focus of the unit is on service of hot meals, drinks, and snacks.

Diana Kidd, a disaster worker, was assigned to the new unit and on Tuesday helped serve 600 hot meals of tacos to hurricane survivors.

“The unit is great because it’s smaller and anyone can drive it,” said Kidd. “It is very easy to drive. And it can get into locations where bigger units can’t go.”

The VRU unit, and two others just like it, were made possible by a gift from Community Coffee Company in early 2022 of $250,000.

“With The Salvation Army’s history of providing hope for over 100 years and ours of serving communities for over 100 years, we see them as an ideal partner in our efforts to make communities stronger during times of disaster,” said Community Coffee chairman Matt Saurage.

“We in the Alabama/Louisiana/Mississippi Division of The Salvation Army are so blessed to have partners like Community Coffee whose generous donation allowed for us to be prepared to respond locally for a disaster,” said Will Trueblood, Emergency Disaster Services Director for the Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi Division. “Now that blessing has been extended to our friends in Florida who are using our Community Coffee Van Response Unit (VRU) to serve meals to displaced and vulnerable populations trying to recover from Hurricane Ian. We want to thank our friends at Community Coffee again for their generosity and support as we continue doing the most good.”

The Salvation Army maintains a fleet of emergency response vehicles, including mobile canteens and kitchen units around the country, with 270 of these assets in the southern United States alone. The Salvation Army is nationally recognized as a sanctioned disaster relief and assistance organization. With a presence in almost every ZIP code in the country, it is uniquely positioned to respond with a clear understanding of each impacted area’s needs.

Through October 11, The Salvation Army has served 231,967 meals, 153,230 drinks, and 56,244 snacks, with 31,386 hours of active service and 11,054 emotional and spiritual care contacts across the state of Florida in response to Hurricane Ian.

The Salvation Army plans to continue its response as long as needed, and is coordinating its efforts with federal, state, and local officials, as well as other social service agencies.

To make a financial donation to support ongoing Hurricane Ida relief efforts, go to or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. For the latest disaster response information, go to