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The Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross is anxiously awaiting its newest team member, Henry. One of just two mobile kitchens in the country, Henry’s Kitchen is a 53-foot, self-contained mobile unit packed with all the features needed to produce hot and cold meals for disaster victims. Built in 2000, Henry’s Kitchen was named for the late Henry Fenn, a longtime Red Cross volunteer and mobile kitchen advocate who died while on a relief operation in New Jersey in 1999.

Staffed by three to six trained Red Cross kitchen volunteers, Henry’s Kitchen has the capacity to make 10,000 meals a day. Since its first deployment to Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, volunteers have used Henry’s Kitchen to prepare more than one million meals for disaster victims.

Henry comes to Peoria from his previous station in Wichita, Kansas. “The National Red Cross wants Henry strategically located where he can deploy quickly to disaster sites across the country,” explained Erin Miller of the Central Illinois Chapter. “The high quality of our disaster service and leadership, the training and experience of our local volunteers, and the strength of the relationships we have with our local community were all reasons why Peoria was selected.”

Viewing this as a training opportunity for local Red Cross volunteers, the organization sees the relocation of Henry’s Kitchen as a great asset to the Greater Peoria Area. Should there ever be a natural disaster in our own backyard, we’ll be well equipped to handle relief efforts.

Additionally, the mobile kitchen will provide great educational opportunities for the community, as he will be making the rounds and offering tours to schools, businesses and local events as often as possible. For now, the Central Illinois Chapter will continue to recruit and build up a team of CDL drivers and ensure that Henry is always ready to be deployed whenever and wherever he’s needed. iBi

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