News Photo by Mike Gonzalez
Maj. Prezza Morrison, corps officer and pastor of the Alpena Salvation Army, opens up the emergency service canteen on Friday.
ALPENA — The Alpena Salvation Army needs volunteers for its emergency service canteen, which serves food and drinks to survivors and first responders during times of disaster.
The canteen is a truck with a kitchen as its body and a window and moveable shade on the side through which volunteers serve people.
The canteen needs a minimum of two people to get to an emergency and help others. The current two most consistent canteen volunteers say it’s getting harder for them to do it.
Those volunteers, Joyce and Joseph Demski, said that, if nobody takes their spots as the regular volunteers, the canteen may get pulled from operations.
“The canteen is a service for the community that I really think people don’t realize is there until they need it,” Joyce Demski said. “We don’t want to see it taken away, but, again, we’re getting up in years. It’s getting harder to get everything set up and taking it down.”
The Demskis started volunteering with the canteen in 2011. They said a similar situation to what’s happening now was happening back then, as the two most consistent volunteers at the time grew older and had more difficulty working the truck.
“The Salvation Army here needed someone to replace the two people, and, at first, it was just us,” Joyce Demski said. “We like what we do and we wanted to give back. The two of us just work really well together and we were confident in our ability to do this.”
Over the years, the Demskis said, others have helped out and volunteered alongside them, but, for the most part, the canteen has been just them.
It’s rewarding work, the couple said.
“When we go to a fire and give the firefighters or survivors or law enforcement food and water, they’re always so grateful, and we’re grateful,” Joyce Demski said. “The gratitude feeds gratitude.”
Maj. Prezza Morrison, corps officer and pastor of the Alpena Salvation Army, said the time spent volunteering can vary, which deters some people.
“They want something more consistent, and we can’t consistently have fires,” Morrison said. “That just isn’t something we plan for. We don’t want any. So we want to plan so that if there ever is any, we’re ready for it.”
Morrison said she tries to put on a training session once a month for volunteers, but that any who join to work the canteen may not go out for a while because there may be no disaster to which to respond.
She said she wants volunteers to realize the hours are sporadic, but that the canteen needs a large group that can drive and run it.
A maximum of five volunteers are able to help out, but Morrison said having more people than needed increases the likelihood volunteers will be available to work the canteen.
“It’s not high-pressure,” Morrison said. “It’s nothing like, ‘You better be there or else,’ and that’s the good thing about having a large team. If you have a large team, then, yeah, we just move on to the next person. That’s fine. We’ll ask you the next time and move on to the next person, and move on to the next person. So there’s a lot of flexibility with that so they don’t feel like they’re tied to us.”
For those who want to volunteer and do not want to drive the canteen, a safe-from-harm training course is provided by the Salvation Army.
For those who want to volunteer and drive the canteen, a chauffeur’s license is required. Morrison said the Salvation Army is happy to help out in the process as much as possible.
Anyone wanting to join the volunteer services should contact Morrison at 989-766-3224 or email@example.com.