Diocesan News

CCBQ Donates Mobile Office To Aid Kentucky Tornado Victims

Msgr. Alfred LoPinto hands the keys to the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens mobile office, which was converted from a recreational vehicle, to Al Thompson, a Catholic Charities volunteer from the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky. (Photo: Bill Miller)

PARK SLOPE — Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens got plenty of use from its modified recreational vehicle during the first year of the pandemic — but after that, not so much.

Officials at the charitable organization learned that their mobile office, mounted on a Ford E350 Super Duty van, was too big to easily navigate New York City’s roadways.

Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, CCBQ’s president and CEO, decided in early December that Catholic Charities in Western Kentucky could make better use of the RV.

A powerful F4 tornado had just torn across the region, killing 58 people and inflicting severe damage to several towns. Three Catholic churches were ravaged, said Al Thompson, a volunteer with Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky.

On Jan. 27, Msgr. LoPinto presented the truck to Al Thompson, a volunteer with Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Owensboro, who pointed it south, back home to Kentucky. Thompson’s boss, Director Susan Montalvo-Gesser, expressed her gratitude for the donation.

Sisters Julianna Sims, 21, and Natalie, 15 comfort each other while visiting the destroyed theater at the American Legion in Mayfield, Ky., Dec. 19, 2021, more than a week after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states. (Photo: Cheney Orr, Reuters, via CNS)

“This gift helps us rebuild lives,” she told The Tablet, adding that it also “gives us the mobility and capability to reach into the margins of despair and bring hope.”

The RV served a similar purpose, if only briefly, in Brooklyn and Queens, according to Msgr. LoPinto.

“It came in handy during the pandemic because we were doing pop-up things, like food distributions,” he said. Later, however, it largely remained parked because of local roadway restrictions on large vehicles.

Msgr. LoPinto credited Sister Donna Markham, CEO of Catholic Charities USA, for facilitating the donation. 

Gesser said the truck would help Catholic Charities bring on-site case management, “in the hardest-hit areas of the disaster.” Among them are the Kentucky communities of Mayfield, Dawson Springs, Bowling Green, Cayce, and Princeton, as well as other rural areas. 

“Most people think of immediate needs like food, clothing, and shelter,” she said. “But the big work is helping persons rebuild homes, caring for their mental health needs, and helping replace jobs long-term.”