Jennifer Custer has brought her Pennsylvania brotherly love to the team of passionate American Red Cross volunteers at a shelter at the Revive Church in Pasadena, Texas outside of Houston, Texas. Along with doing an awesome job as a nurse, she has helped train nursing students at Revive Church who are learning the exciting ropes of nursing, trying to rescue a dog, rescued a family in a traffic accident and she has only spent a little over a week in Houston, Texas since her plane touched down.
A shelter was set up in Revive Church in Pasadena, Texas after tornadoes struck Pasadena, Texas on January 24. Custer ended up being assigned as the only Disaster health Services nurse. However, Custers’s trip to Houston ended up with more tales of adventure than she would have imagined after her plane landed.
On her way to the shelter, there was a stray dog in the street. Jennifer describes herself as a dog Mom and she has an eye for stray dogs in need of help. Seeing a lonely, stranded dog in dangerous region that had been struck by tornadoes nearby, her nursing instincts sprung into action. The stray dog reminded her of the many dogs she had rescued off of streets in Pennsylvania and she couldn’t resist helping one more.
The Red Cross has a policy of holding kennels for pets that may have been effected by the storm. Seeing a dog, possibly effected by the tornadoes, she was no longer civilian Jennifer Custer and she transitioned into Red Cross nurse Jennifer Custer. She decided the dog needed help from the aftermath of the tornadoes too. Using granola cereal, she tried to lure the dog into her rescuing arms. Although she was unsuccessful in saving the dog, she certainly tried.
On her way to a pharmacy to help at the shelter, she witnessed a car accident right in front of her own eyes. It didn’t take much for her to transition into those nursing instincts. Jennifer was the first in the neighborhood to call 9-1-1 for the accident and provided nursing assistance until local EMS arrived on the scene while wearing a Red Cross jacket that had reflecting lights protecting her from any possible traffic.
Jennifer has helped so many people in such a short amount of time. Those effected by the January 24, tornadoes at Revive Church, and the members of the Pasadena community who’s lives she saved will have so much to thank her for in an afterlife. Jennifer is so humble about herself as well.
“It’s been very eventful and busy, but extremely rewarding” Custer said. “I was notified that there were some traumatic events that had occurred in several states so I carved out time from my schedule to be available to deploy wherever needed. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go but I’m very flexible and happy to help wherever, however.”
Jennifer Custer arrived in Houston with a nursing career for the storybooks as well. “I only know pandemic nursing, I graduated April 2020. After I got experience as a staff nurse I started travel nursing to get comfortable with flexibility and change with a variety of environments in PA. Then I got on board with the Red Cross in April of 2022 as a volunteer and began training for natural disaster deployments. My first deployment as a Disaster Health Service Nurse was to Florida for Hurricane Ian. This is my second disaster relief operation. Both experiences were vastly different from each other, but equally rewarding. “
Jennifer Custer is one of the few nurses who watched the pandemic begin just a week and a half before her graduation. “All of a sudden, we would go into our clinical and found out we couldn’t go out to the floors and everything got serious.” Custer has so many adventurous stories to tell. Stories about her less than two weeks here in the Houston, Texas area and stories about her nearly three years as a nurse. It is amazing the adventures and stories you will hear about and experience as a Red Cross nurse. Some of these stories can be tales for the ages.
Our interview with Jennifer Custer lasted fifteen minutes but this journalist left feeling that she could tell so many more stories as she left to help the 37 evacuees at the Revive Church in Pasadena, Texas.
If you are a nurse and want to get involved with volunteering and serving in your local community, go to redcross.org/volunteer. If you were affected by the tornadoes and need a place to stay, the Revive Church at 1062 Fairmont Parkway is open.
Story by Sean Larkin