Carl Nappier's 1984 GMC delivery van has 26,962 miles on it, but he said he wants to put even more on the odometer to recruit volunteers to help people in need.
Nappier, who lives in California, volunteers with the Capital Area chapter of the American Red Cross, based in Jefferson City.
In August, he purchased the van from the chapter and began refurbishing it, equipping it with a sound system, spotlights and Christmas lights, and also converting the back of the van into an information center about the Red Cross.
He said in an interview Wednesday that he wants to travel to different county fairs and events around the state to raise awareness about the organization and encourage people to volunteer.
"It's just letting people know that the Red Cross is out there for them and giving them the opportunity to volunteer," he said. "It makes no difference if you're a secretary, a fireman, a plumber, or like me, a chef at one time. There's always something in there that the Red Cross has available for people."
Nappier started volunteering with the Red Cross after he retired from Unilever in 2002.
After seeing a newspaper ad offering training in "mass feeding," he decided to volunteer because had worked as a professional chef in the St. Louis area before working at Unilever.
Nappier said he soon took more volunteer classes in mass sheltering, disaster relief, CPR and first aid.
"This is just unreal, the things they do," he said. "It's mind-blowing that they turn around and cover so many different areas."
Christmas lights adorn the van, which is topped with four spotlights and has speakers on its front bumpers so that Nappier can talk to audiences. Inside the van are a few chairs where people can sit and drink hot chocolate while looking at information about the Red Cross, from its beginnings in Britain and America to the present day. "It's going to be like a museum on the inside," he said.
He also wants to keep a cot in the van so he can stay two or three days in each place he visits.
Many people associate the Red Cross with blood drives, but the 70-year-old Nappier works as a field representative, responding to disasters like the Monday fire at a Jefferson City apartment building.
"We just go out and we meet their immediate needs," like giving them a place to stay and food to eat, Nappier said.
Nappier said Phillip Iman, the emergency services director for the Capital Area chapter, helped him decide how the van should be decorated.
Iman said the Capital Area chapter has 230 members on its rolls across its 12 counties, but said the organization is constantly recruiting so volunteers are available whenever a disaster or rescue situation arises.
"All those volunteers have a life and have different things going on," he said. "We never know when a disaster is coming."
Nappier developed the van's new design and made the modifications by himself, consulting Iman to make sure that the message of the van was consistent with the message the Red Cross puts out in its recruiting materials.
"He developed the ideas and ran them past me because the Red Cross is part of a national organization that has certain standards, but it was all Carl," Iman said.
The messages on the van and its purpose is helping the organization.
"Absolutely it is," Iman said. "The message he has with it is just perfect and it's very effective."
Nappier has shown the van in Jefferson City and Moniteau County, but said he plans to go wherever he can to spread his message, both locally and around the state.
"I plan on taking it not only to county fairs but to organizations that want me to talk about the Red Cross and to schools and taking it to let people know what they do out there," he said.
While Nappier has spread his message at several local events, the van's odometer will really start rolling this spring: the next stop for Nappier is the Dogwood Festival in Camdenton in April.