Diary of a Dedicated Disaster Relief Volunteer

Danelle Stoppel, a Red Cross volunteer with the SEPA chapter is very experienced with the transition from volunteering at the local level to the national level and understands the ongoing problems that come with traveling through areas devastated by fire. This post was compiled from a series of text messages sent by Danelle.


All that is left of a neighborhood in Colorado Springs after the Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

June 29, 2012

Things are moving quickly from local to national.  Fire conditions continue with frequent small fires.  Last night, there was a large meeting at a local college where 345 families were told their houses were destroyed.  Tomorrow families will be bused to their homes, but they cannot get out since fires are still burning.  Disaster recovery centers will open.  I have staffed four shelters and am coordinating local efforts as they interface with national.

June 30, 2012

FEMA has arrived, but families cannot see their houses until Sunday now.  Mental health is now ten strong and includes local chapter members.  I am working with wonderful mental health people from across the country.  I will be housed at headquarters now and have been invited to participate in the strategic plan for this site.  I am working with old friends from deployments in Alabama and Pennsylvania and making new connections everyday.  There is lots of national exposure for mental health due to massive loss. Headquarters is opening away from chapter tomorrow and client case management is starting.

Volunteers in Colorado meet to learn their daily assignments                                            Photo by Danelle Stoppel

July 1, 2012

Today, the Colorado Springs recovery center opened and the American Red Cross provided services in the form of medical, client case management and mental health services.  Many people have lost their homes and their jobs.  One man told me he lost his job when a horse stable burned.  He lived in the canyon and never owned a car.  He needs money for transportation to find a new job.  Many renters have lost everything.  Five shelters are still open but evacuees return home tomorrow and do not know what they will find.  The threat of fire continues due to high temperatures and winds and many bears have moved closer to resort towns to escape the fire. The tap water smells like smoke.

SEPA Volunteer Danelle Stoppel with Colorado Springs ERV driver preparing to visit fire damaged areas

The Salvation Army is providing all food for the shelters. The ERVs arrived today; client case managers and nurses are now relieving local American Red Cross nurses.   I currently supervise 11 mental health personnel and our role will increase to client work and other areas when we are asked to become involved.  Volunteers are working 13 hours a day and we eat dinner together each night. I miss everyone at our Southeastern, PA chapter, but I am proud to represent the Philadelphia area.

Danelle’s texts only give a tiny glimpse into what happens during a major Red Cross relief operation. She and hundreds of other volunteers (including two from SEPA) were called in by our national headquarters to assist local Red Cross volunteers. Danelle’s deployment could last up to 21 days.

SEPA chapter trained Danelle to handle the work she is doing. We are proud of how capable and dedicated our volunteers are. They make it possible for the Red Cross to do what it does.

-Compiled by Lana Pizzo-

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