Berkshire Health Systems donates mobile outreach unit to Salvation Army


PITTSFIELD — The county's largest employer has given a boost to the Salvation Army's response to disasters from the Berkshires to Boston and beyond.

Berkshire Health Systems has donated its Health & Wellness Community Outreach mobile unit to the Pittsfield Salvation Army, which will be turned over to the Massachusetts Salvation Army. While the vehicle will be used throughout New England and Mid-Atlantic states, Berkshire County has first priority, according to local and regional Salvation Army officials.

The 11-year-old vehicle will be upgraded and relettered before it's pressed into service, likely by the end of the year, said Capt. Elliott Higgins of the Pittsfield Corps on West Street.

"We will be able to do basic needs, such as making sure people have food and help them with recovery," he said.

Higgins wife, Capt. Darlene Higgins added, "We now have one place to sit down our clients, removing them from the disaster scene."

The Higginses say the Pittsfield Corps will continue deploying its mobile kitchen to feed first responders and victims at a fire scene or other local emergencies.

The Massachusetts Salvation Army will manage and operate the donated vehicle, according to Chris Farrand, regional coordinator for the Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services. Farrand said the initial investment to retrofit the mobile unit to the Salvation Army's specifications could cost up to $25,000. The work includes possible replacement of the generator, installing communications equipment and other renovations.

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"We couldn't afford to look for a vehicle like this, let alone get one donated to us," Farrand said. "I believe this vehicle will be the first of its kind in New England."

Capt. Elliott Higgins added, "To get a vehicle like this brand new, would retail for about $300,000."

The donation from BHS comes as the health care provider has upgraded and expanded its community outreach programs. The donated mobile unit, staffed by the BHS community outreach team, has given way to a new, state-of-the-art mobile health unit, through the Berkshire Fallon Collaborative, said BHS spokesman Michael Leary.

"The previous van, staffed by our community outreach team, provided health screenings, blood pressure clinics, health information and referrals, and access to enrollment for health coverage in its visits to community and business sites for several years," Leary said in an email to The Eagle. "The BFHC ... mobile health unit provides a further expanded range of outreach services to the community we all serve."

Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative is a partnership of BHS, Community Health Program, Fallon Health and the Partnership for Health in the Berkshires, the BHS Physician Hospital Organization.

Leary said BHS is pleased the Salvation Army will use a former BHS community outreach van to meet the emergency needs of the community.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at and 413-496-6233.


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