Local volunteer helps those impacted by Hurricane Isaac

Shirley Kunkle has been responding to national disasters as a Red Cross volunteer since 2005, providing her expertise as a mental health professional to help victims of natural disaster cope with what they are going through.

Kunkle’s volunteer work most recently had her traveling around the south in response to Hurricane Isaac.

She deployed to Florida on Aug. 24 as part of an advance team that would help coordinate initial efforts should the hurricane strike land.

“They didn’t know where the hurricane was going to hit,” Kunkle said, noting she traveled to several parts of Florida before eventually flying to Houston to get ahead of the storm and driving east to Louisiana. “They always try to send a team out before it hits. They just send a few people at the beginning to check the needs and call in more help if it’s needed.”

Kunkle — a retired school psychologist whose experience as a volunteer includes Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the tornadoes that ripped through North Carolina, Alabama and Joplin in 2011 — said her experience with Isaac was not quite as dramatic.

She helped set up and run a shelter in Metarie, La., which is located across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.

“People came to the shelter because they knew it was open. There were people that had been flooded out, but we were out of the flood area,” Kunkle said. “I was doing counseling, checking to make sure the staff was okay.”

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