SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 2, 2013

Former Beverly bookmobile to become mobile health clinic

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — The old Beverly bookmobile, sidelined since the city bought a new one last year, could soon be back on the road delivering another service — health care.

A group of activists from the Occupy Boston movement submitted the high bid of $7,099.99 in an online auction and plan to turn the bookmobile into a mobile medical clinic on the streets of Boston.

“It’s a very unique vehicle, so we’re happy to have gotten it,” said Charlotte Badler, a registered nurse from Boston. “We’re glad it’s getting a good use rather than being used for scrap metal.”

The bookmobile, a 1987 Ford with 108,401 miles, attracted 110 bids before the bidding closed at 9:07 p.m. Thursday night. David Gelineau, the city’s purchasing director, said officials were pleased with the final $7,000 price.

“We really didn’t know what we would get for it, but I didn’t think it would go for that kind of money,” he said.

The high bidders describe themselves as a group of volunteer “street medics” who met last year during the Occupy Boston movement to administer basic health care to protesters from a tent in Dewey Square.

The group consists of about a dozen people from various backgrounds, including nurses, emergency medical technicians and social workers, who are trained to provide emergency services during protests or after disasters.

Badler said the group has been considering the idea of starting a mobile clinic to assist homeless people in Boston. When one of the group members spotted the Beverly bookmobile on the auction website, “He sent out an email and said, ‘Hey, guys, look at this.’”

An anonymous donor helped the group push its winning bid over the $7,000 mark.

“This is something we’ve been dreaming about,” Badler said.

The group plans to provide “basic health and outreach services” from the converted bookmobile, including blood pressure checks, wound care and crisis counseling. Volunteers will give out Narcan, a medication that helps with heroin overdoses, as well as condoms, socks, healthy snacks and hot coffee, according to the group’s website.

Badler said the mobile clinic will most likely start out in Harvard Square and Boston Common.

“We want to reach people who would not normally be accessing services,” she said.

Fittingly enough, the group also plans to have a “little library” inside the former bookmobile, Badler said, with a tabletop printing press for people to publish their own poetry or zine.

“To be able to self-publish like that is a very empowering experience,” she said.

The bookmobile had been on the road since 1987 until last year, when it was replaced by a new, $150,000 model paid for by private donations. It delivers books and other library items four days per week throughout the city.

Linda Caravaggio, who had driven the old bookmobile since 1988, said she’s happy to hear it will have a productive second life.

“I’m glad it’s going to be put to a good use,” she said.

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Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.