By Michele Maki, American Red Cross

When the American Red Cross put out a call for trained volunteers to support the mental health needs of Hurricane Harvey survivors, Geri Waggle knew she wanted to go.

But although Waggle has been a Red Cross volunteer for 20 years, she is also a fulltime mental health professional in Indianapolis, Ind. What to do?

“I called my employer, the Marion County Public Health Department, and asked if I could use my vacation time, or part vacation and part unpaid time so I could go,” Waggle said.

“This is something I felt I had to do… matter what.”

Red Cross mental health volunteer Geri Waggle has more than comforting words for Rose City, Texas, resident Chad Landry, whose home was inundated by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Red Cross food and cleanup supplies are free, and appreciated.

Waggle’s supervisor felt the same way and granted her two weeks paid time off so she could deploy with the Red Cross. “I couldn’t believe it! This was beyond generous. I just cried, with gratitude,” she said.

Within hours Waggle was on a plane for Texas. On the ground, she was assigned to Rose City, where nearly every resident had lost their home.

“I can’t tell you what it means to be here,” Waggle said. “When these folks tell you their stories of losing everything and being rescued by complete strangers in boats, you know this is a life changing event. It can’t help but affect you.

“These folks need our support to process all they’ve been through and all they will be facing, moving forward.”

With her training and years of disaster experience, Waggle knew how to smoothly become part of the response team.

When residents arrived at city hall for a meal, a Red Cross team was on hand with hot food and Waggle was there to provide support. Some residents, like Chad Landry, had multiple needs.

“I lost my home and needed some clean-up supplies,” Landry said. “She greeted me with a smile, gave me the supplies I needed and then showed me where they were serving lunch. I really appreciate this help from the Red Cross.”

Waggle too appreciates support. “For my employer to work with me so I could deploy means everything. It was so generous, and in doing their part, I’m able to help folks like Mr. Landry. This is why we, the American Red Cross, are here.”