Mission of Mercy, a nonprofit traveling medical clinic that serves the needy in Carroll County and Western Maryland, is dispensing its signature "healing through love" from a sturdier, safer and roomier space.
The mission, which offers free health care and medicine to the needy, has discarded its 11-year-old Pace Arrow van for a $90,000 Winnebago Adventurer, which has been refurbished as a mobile clinic. The Frederick County-based group purchased the recreational vehicle through fund-raising efforts.
"We needed wider, taller, safer and more private space," said Dr. Gianna Talone-Sullivan, who founded the mission five years ago. "Not that we weren't happy to work in such close quarters, but from a practical standpoint, this vehicle gives our patients more privacy and more dignity."
The new vehicle received an ecumenical blessing in Emmitsburg last month from representatives of the many faiths it serves at seven sites in Maryland and Gettysburg, Pa. The staff held an open house in Westminster last week.
The exterior is painted in the familiar gray and tan with the mission logo and a white cross. But the differences inside are immediately noticeable. The waiting room, at the entrance, has a large, comfortable sofa and love seat.
The Winnebago is 3 feet longer and a foot taller than its predecessor. When it is stationed on a site, it becomes wider. A wall slides out, adding 3 feet to the waiting room and nurses' station.
"It is so great to have room," said David E. Liddle, mission executive director. "We are not tripping over each other and holding our breath so we can get by."
Since the mission opened five years ago, the original van had traveled more than 50,000 miles and provided service to about 25,000 patients, said Liddle.
"It was mostly local driving, but it was constant and it was never built for the weight we had to carry," he said.
The old van was donated to Teen Mercy in Scranton, Pa. It will be making short runs to collect and distribute food to the poor.
The new van's 20,000-pound Ford chassis is the heaviest made and can easily carry the load of medical and dental equipment, patient files and staff. Its driver said it is much easier to maneuver.
"It is so much more comfortable to drive," said Phil Coghlan.
The added space provided by the sliding wall means a larger and more private examining area, and an expanded pharmacy.
Selena Sokol of Taneytown, who has been a patient on the old and new vans, said, "The new one is so much roomier, and the waiting room is so nice."