Irving Rundle pulls the pillow over his head to block out the ringing phone. His wife, Damaris, answers.
Irving hears her ask for an address and he knows someone in the community in which he was born has suffered a disaster and is in need of Red Cross services. He closes his eyes and waits for his wife to nudge him.
When the nudge comes, Irving throws the pillow aside, gets out of bed and dresses. He puts on his watch, noticing that it is 12:15 a.m.
This is the second home fire in less than a week. In the yard a family of five stands near the ashes of what used to be their home, in shock, with nothing left but the nightclothes they are wearing.
The Red Cross arrives at the site with toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, shampoo and other toiletries for the family. There are stuffed bears for the two youngest kids to hug.
A Red Crosser talks with the parents about the situation and the steps that need to be taken to begin the recovery process. Then the Red Cross drives the family to a hotel where they can sleep and eat for the next few days.
The Face of Red Cross Response
Damaris Rundle is assistant director of response for the Orange/Sullivan County office of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. Irving Rundle and their son, Dennis, are Red Cross disaster volunteers.
The three have been responding to disasters for more than 15 years, sometimes more than 50 disasters a year.
Irving doesn’t mind getting up in the middle of the night to set up a Red Cross shelter or get a family checked into a hotel.
“It’s a good feeling when you take care of people up here,” Irving says, “The way they thank you, it’s rewarding.”
Service is a Rundle Family Tradition
For a number of years the Rundle’s son, Dennis, has served as captain of the disaster action team. Often Dennis goes with his mother to help with a late night emergency so his dad can get up at 4:00 a.m. for his job as a corrections officer. “When it is very late, I just let Irving know that Dennis and I are responding to a disaster,” Damaris says, “that I’m leaving kisses and love and will return as soon as I can.”
Damaris also tells about the times Dennis and Irving team up, especially when there is a flood. She talks about the two loading a truck with supplies and getting them to the shelter site. While Irving and Dennis are ensuring the shelter has all the goods it needs, Damaris is calling volunteers to staff the shelter once flood evacuees arrive.
Damaris’ mother, Eva Ospina, started volunteering in her 80s. She used to go to disasters to help with casework, play with children while her daughter spoke to their parents and translate for Spanish-speaking clients. Now 93, Eva has stopped responding to disasters, but she still helps with paperwork at the Red Cross office.
Granddaughter Skye became an official Red Cross volunteer this summer after graduating from the 8th grade. Right now Skye volunteers in the office. Soon she will be trained to help out at shelters by babysitting and running errands, a job her sister, Kaycee, performed until she moved away to college.
The Rundles like the feeling they get at the end of the day knowing they have made a difference. That same feeling motivates thousands of American Red Cross disaster action team members across the country.