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Below is a compilation of text messages from American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania mental health volunteer Danelle Stoppel about her recent experience helping people in Boston cope with the recent bombing there. (It starts with the most RECENT. Scroll down to see earlier ones.)

Danelle Stoppel, here with Dave Warren, a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer from Rochester, NY, review the cases they've handled while working in Boston after the Boston Marathon bombings

Danelle Stoppel, here with Dave Warren, a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer from Rochester, NY, review the cases they’ve handled while working in Boston after the Boston Marathon bombings

The evening of day 2, DHM (Disaster Mental Health) workers were asked to attend the vigil for Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed on MIT’s campus last week.  His hometown put this event together in eight hours to honor him.  As a Red Cross worker I am becoming very familiar with vigils and memorials for fallen police and firefighters. on national disaster responses (DRs) and in Philadelphia.  I feel comfortable attending these events since while, we are not first responders, we work in cooperation with them everyday.

The short life of this police officer was remarkable.  Sean’s mentor spoke of his desire to be a city police officer. Several days before his death, Sean was offered a local position and he was to start on June 3rd.  The American Red Cross was here as a presence to witness his life.

Over the past two days, I have been working directly with families of the victims.  Coordinated services to them are being delivered in an undisclosed location to ensure their privacy. This closely guarded environment affords these families the opportunity to register for a variety services being offered to them locally and nationally.  The American Red Cross is one of those services.

While I can never know what our services accomplishes I do know what I gain from this experience.  I have been able to directly connect with several families over the past three days as they attempt to recover.  I have quickly become “Deedee,” my nickname, and that put them in my family/friends circle.  That happens so quickly on a disaster response like this one.  It reduces all of us to a pure human being without the barriers of class, race, language and religion. While it is very difficult to hear details of their loved ones injuries and prognosis, I am honored that I can be of service to them.  Our work with the American Red Cross is essential, needed and appreciated

– Danelle Stoppel, April 24, 2013

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Last Friday (April 19) I was deployed to Boston as a disaster mental health worker.  We entered Boston shortly after the city wide lockdown was lifted.  A city wide lockdown is a very new experience to disaster relief.  No one including Red Cross disaster workers could leave their homes, hotels, etc…On day two, the city returned to new normal with the presence of military personnel in military transport vehicles on every corner of the downtown area.

Police personnel from many states as well as FBI, Homeland Security, and National Guard were everywhere.  It was a very different feeling than my typical disaster responses.  Whole areas of Boston were shut down because they were FBI crime scenes.  Whole blocks were evacuated and residents could not return home.

A Memorial developed on blocks close to the marathon site and on MIT’s campus.  The local volunteers from the Boston chapter of the American Red Cross was very Involved in the mental health response as well.  It was wonderful to be paired with a local person as we worked on outreach activities.  On this response, everyone has been impacted.  This is so different from our usual experience in the Red Cross.  No one in this area is untouched.

On day two I was assigned to work with Boston marathon volunteers who are gathering to work through their experience. While the event was scheduled for three hours we stayed for six.  Their overwhelming feelings filled the room and it was difficult to remain dry eyed.  These people volunteered for this event for years and have always had a feeling of great joy working this event.  Medical volunteers who came to help runners with injuries, dehydration and exhaustion found themselves in trauma/triage mode.  While their training pulled them through to accomplish the task, their emotions were atypical and the joy of their yearly event turned into overwhelming sadness.

– Danelle Stoppel, April 23, 2013

Danelle, pictured here in July 2012 while on deployment in Colorado, providing mental health services to a man who's home was destroyed by a wildfire.

Danelle, pictured here in July 2012 while on deployment in Colorado, providing mental health services to a man who’s home was destroyed by a wildfire.

American Red Cross Disaster Action Team Leader and Disaster Mental Health Specialist Danelle Stoppel is always on the short list of those to be sent to assist with national Red Cross responses. She’s referred to around our chapter as “Deployment Danelle.” She recently deployed to New York to assist with the Sandy response by providing essential mental health services to folks dealing with the aftermath of the superstorm.

Below is a compilation of messages and photos Danelle texted to our Director of Communications. It will be updated periodically until her return.

November 16

Arrived at Manhattan (Greater New York) Chapter Headquarters. It was wonderful to meet up with people I have worked with on other DRs (Disaster Responses). I have been assigned to the borough of Queens which includes several hard-hit areas. I will be meeting with my team tonight and tomorrow we have been assigned to the bulk distribution sites throughout our area. The atmosphere at Headquarters was upbeat, but for those who have been here for several weeks report they are exhausted and due to very low drives to and from work sites and desperate conditions in the hard hit areas.

June from Far Rockaway. she lost everything in her home to Sandy. All she really needs is a good pair of boots. Strong woman from Jamaica who made her home here 22 years ago. she loved to work with the elderly and is truly inspirational.

Bulk distribution teams are now going door to door delivering clean up kits in Far Rockaway. We are working in teams with nurses as 1475 start coming in.

Spontaneous volunteers with car loads of clothes, etc. helping anyone in need in Far Rockaway.

Door to door clean up kits are being delivered to Rockaway residents. I am now working with bulk distribution on a team with nurses and mental health specialists.

I can’t talk about individual people, but it is very sad. People look like they have been in a war zone. I love being on the ground with real people. I miss everyon.

SEPA Volunteers Anthony and Ben with our ERV which have been serving meals and distributing items to those affected by Sandy in NY.

Tomorrow, I return to the same distribution site. Due to the lack of housing options, we are staying in Manhattan, only 20 miles from the worst natural disaster to hit New York. Being downtown close to Times Square, it’s hard to imagine that such widespread disaster exists. the leadership in NYC has made it easier for the Red Cross to function. Our vehicles do not pay tolls and there is a facility where we can fill up our vehicles for no cost. Our hotel is parking our vehicles at no cost. The amount of people focused on this disaster is evident in all areas of the city. The respect for the American Red Cross is evident when you speak with people and so many people have gone out of their way to thank me.

November 17

Saw Clifton (SEPA COO) this morning. He looked well rested and was attempting to control the crowd of people trying to out-process (leave the job). 

I am working with a young man from Kentucky. He was emailed a newsletter from the American Association of marriage and family therapists asking for volunteers to work with the Red Cross. He applied and was quickly approved and arrived in New York City four days later. Talk about fast-tracked and bringing good people into the Red Cross…

November 18

Today, I partnered with an international agency called Heart to Heart and delivered mental health services to their clients. Many did not speak English and I interpreted for them. This part of Queens is home to many nationalities and cultures. Many families from Guatemala, Mexico and Puerto Rico sought medical advice due to lack of electricity which destroyed their daily supply of insulin. I heard a very comment that no one could believe this could happen in New York. Many people stayed in their homes until the water reached their porch. Perhaps the most distressing aspect is the impact of Sandy on senior citizens here and in New Jersey. Losing their homes and all their belongings has impacted them physically, economically and emotionally.

November 23

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, but not in Coney Island.  Some areas have no stores open.  The people depend heavily on the Red Cross for one meal a day.  There are many people of Russian descent who do not speak English.

November 25

Each day is a challenge and yesterday and today were more profoundly so. We were called to a high rise apartment in Brooklyn.  There, we met with a mother of a 47 year old gentleman who has been severely disabled since nine years old and is wheelchair bound.  He no longer has the use of his

legs and his left hand. Despite his physical limitations, he works as a lawyer in Manhattan.  He lives on the fourth floor, and when the storm hit he was unable to leave his bed due to the loss of electricity.  He was eventually hospitalized five days later due to hypothermia.  He has returned home, but cannot function due to the loss of his van, which was lost to salt water erosion.

November 26

Today’s challenge was thirty senior citizens who lived on Coney Island.  We evacuated them to a shelter in Brooklyn miles away

from their small neighborhood.  They are seniors who are living independently with staff who assist them to remain independent.  They are now living in a shelter in another building.  They have no hot meals since they normally cook for themselves. While they are being assisted by personnel they know, they are crowded together in a strange part of New York where they know no one.  We will be returning to assist them with the ongoing stress associated with the loss of their privacy and their community on Coney Island.

Stoppel with Lauren Watson and Noel Green

Stoppel with Lauren Watson and Noel Green

November 27

Hey, look who I ran into at 7:30…SEPA is in the house.

November 28

Noel and his team. Two days on this disaster response and Noel has again become the GO TO MAN.  Philly is making a difference…..lending our best to Manhattan.

Noel and his Team

Noel and his Team

Danelle and her team out to dinner

Danelle and her team out to dinner

November 29

Finally we are together to share a meal…

November 30

Bryan showed up at our outreach in site in Broad Channel.  Great seeing Bryan!

Bryan showed up at our outreach in site in Broad Channel. Great seeing Bryan!

For the past several days, I have been on an outreach team.  We are returning to places we know very well. This time we are armed with supplies, water, food, clothing, batteries, cleaning kits and winter coats.  Disaster victims needs are endless and after one month, they are tired, cold,frustrated and desperate. People living on the outer islands are now experiencing very cold weather. This team concept is an effort to find people whose needs have notbeen met.  Often, these people have lost everything.  Housing shortage appears to be the greatest need.  People from Coney Island are now living in hotels in Manhattan.  
Parents are driving their children back to Coney Island,  Rockaway and Far Rockaway daily to attend their neighborhood school, which is open.  Hotels cannot handle all of these people since the holiday season is coming.  

Danelle with client

Danelle with client

December 4
Today is the last day I will be on a team visiting families who lost a loved one in Hurricane Sandy. I have had a great deal of experience in the last year on these teams. I am always humbled to meet families and hear their stories. It requires one to hold back on emotions in order to get the job done.
When we give the family the donation from the Red Cross we say, “This is from the American people.” This is why I volunteer for the American Red Cross.
I will be back in Philly tomorrow and my Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross family will surround me and I will be grateful that I represented them here in New York.

More team members from Kansas, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia

Love and Peace to All
— Danelle Stoppel

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 blog was compiled from a series of text messages sent by Danelle from her recent posting in Colorado Springs.

(Below are the second set of compiled texts. To see the first set,  click here.

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July 4th, 2012 – Colorado Springs

Our ERV came upon people who requested our help.  In an area with no reported losses, an elderly couple entered their home to find it completely destroyed by fire and now water damage from the rains.  We helped them with valuables and medicine.  The roof was leaking and the Sheetrock was falling.  We helped them grab what they wanted to save, including an antique painting from Poland, and left the house.  The mayor’s wife and a community leader who is also a roofer mobilized his crew to cover the house since we are now under a flood watch.  Thank God for my Disaster Action Team training on difficult responses, which trained me to look up first and think safety.  My boots did the job again. Please people, no sneakers on DAT! Motto for the day: Red Cross boots on the ground!

Yesterday the new manager arrived. Her name is Janet and she is from Florida.  I quickly briefed her of the events and activities of the past eight days. She arrived with a supervisor named Sharon, also from Florida.  They have worked together on other disaster responses. Janet and Sharon set up their operation and I stepped aside so they could assume command.  My crew of great young people including Karin, Lisa, Michael, Luanna, Walt, Don, Carol, and Ruth are now part of a larger group of thirty people. I will see them tonight at a local party sponsored by Colorado Springs to honor the American Red Cross.

Danelle’s “Psych Six Team”

I am currently riding on an ERV to deliver services to residents who are seeing their homes for the first time. I leave tomorrow for home and I know my chapter is busy with a large fire and the aftermath of strong storms.  I promised American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter pins to many people since it is considered a real find.  Hopefully, my energetic approach to delivering mental health services has been effective during the first phase of this disaster response. Mental health was the first service to arrive in Colorado Springs. See you soon.

Ciao,

Danelle

Happy 4th of July from Colorado Springs! Kids selling lemonade to raise money for Red Cross

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.

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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.

POST SCRIPT:
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-