Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Red Cross Story: Kim

By Hailie Duenkel, Volunteer

In 2017, Hurricane Irma swept through the Atlantic – one of the strongest storms in the past century. The catastrophic storm ranked as a category 5 and displaced nearly 40,000 residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kim, a 12-year Red Cross veteran, describes this experience volunteering with the Red Cross as one of her most memorable. “It was very heartwarming. Without the Red Cross coming in, I think many of these people would have died.”

When Kim and fellow Red Cross volunteers arrived, the community shelter was in the care of the county. The community volunteers weren’t equipped to adequately take care of the residents. Babies had dirty diapers, people were hungry, and desperate local residents were clearing the shelter of supplies. Kim assisted the Red Cross to serve over 1.6 million meals and 1.8 million relief supplies to those in the community and provided over 555,000 overnight stays in the shelter. However, this type of extraordinary experience is common for Kim, who has held multiple positions including caseworker, shelter volunteer, and shelter supervisor during her tenure at the Red Cross.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Kim drove an ERV from Fairfax, VA to Southeast Texas and delivered food to those evacuated traveling by canoe. In addition, before her children were born, Kim worked on a DAT (Disaster Action Team) in California and Nevada for 9 years and has deployed to every hurricane disaster area since Hurricane Matthew in 2007.

During Hurricane Matthew, Kim had an especially memorable experience serving as a shelter associate. A veteran displaced during the storm was visibly uncomfortable and unwilling to communicate with shelter volunteers regardless of their persistence. Kim discovered that this man had lost his hearing aid during the chaos of evacuation. Rather than bother the shelter volunteers who were assisting those with more dismal needs, the veteran remained silent. Eventually, Kim and the Red Cross shelter volunteers learned of his impairment and were able to get him a new hearing aide. After that, he “was talking up a storm”, and began the recovery process with new enthusiasm.  It’s connections like these that make the work so rewarding.

Kim cherishes how the Red Cross offers a unique volunteer process that brings people from all lifestyles together for the benefit of the community. People are “completely impartial. They drop all political views, affiliations, etc.” shared Kim as she describes what the Red Cross means to her. “We love each other. I have friends I would never have met, or be friends with in real life, and here we are, thanks to the Red Cross. I have grown so much as a person from this organization.”

Kim has two adult children and currently resides in Haymarket, VA with her husband Eric. She works as a substitute teacher, allowing her to continue with her true passion of volunteering with the Red Cross. She urges people looking to volunteer to find out what they like and to try many things. The Red Cross provides numerous volunteer options that can fit what you are looking for. “Once you find that passion, it’s amazing.”

To become a Red Cross volunteer like Kim, visit

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