By Jacqueline Koch

There are days when you forget that disasters not only forces people from their homes, but also from their jobs.

“I was out of work all week,” Danielle Bullock told me. And to my surprise, she described it not as a crisis, but an amazing opportunity she never had before. “I never have been able to volunteer because I always had to work, and seeing people going through a disaster drives me crazy.”

Danielle went straight to the closest Red Cross shelter, the South County Community Center and she started her first volunteer assignment. Setting up cots, cleaning up after meals, re-stocking supplies, Danielle explained, “I will always find something to do to keep me busy.”

In a few days, she discovered the most valuable help to some shelter residents is someone to listen to their story. One grandmother shared photos of her home, deep in floodwater. A father of a family of eight described how the floods brought water into the home, forcing them to the second floor before they were rescued by boat.

Danielle gets an early start at the shelter, arriving at 6:30 in the morning and stays until 5 in the evening. “Those are the hours I work normally, so I’m keeping to my usual schedule.”

At noon, a team of Red Cross volunteers arrived in an emergency response truck to deliver hot meals to flood-impacted community nearby. Danielle knew the neighborhood and guided the team to areas that were hardest hit.

Danielle admits that there are challenges to volunteering in the aftermath of a disaster. “It does get emotional, you have to be strong,” she explained. But that hasn’t stopped her from considering next steps as a Red Cross volunteer. “I know those volunteers are out there helping people, that’s what they do, so I’m thinking of joining a disaster action team.”