On July 6, Donna Stroop was enjoying a beautiful Saturday in the Bay Area. Then she heard the news of the Asiana Airlines crash-landing at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and immediately added herself to the volunteer list. A few hours later, she was assigned to the Mass Care Mobile Feeding Team and reported for duty July 7 at the San Mateo Red Cross office in Burlingame.
“Knowing that I could respond to a disaster with both compassion and professional competency is something that is an invaluable experience,” said Donna Stroop, who is an active member of the Bay Area Chapter’s San Mateo County Disaster Action Team.
As part of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, the American Red Cross is responsible for providing emotional support, health services, and other services as requested by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The Red Cross is also responsible for coordinating with partner agencies to provide additional support services, including, but not limited to, providing meals, translation services, and childcare.
Along with other volunteers, Donna worked in one of the mobile feeding units to provide hundreds of meals, drinks, and snacks to investigators and volunteers on the day after the crash and continued to assist throughout the investigation.
Donna started volunteering with the Red Cross in 2008 after she moved to Alameda County.
“I wanted to plug into my new community and get to know people and ultimately make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Five years later, Donna is heavily involved with the National Disaster Response Team and specializes in sheltering and feeding.
“I really care about people,” she said. “The Red Cross gives me the opportunity to directly impact people’s lives in a time of great need. It is very rewarding to me personally.”
On top of boosting morale, Donna found herself mothering some of the “20-something-year-old” FBI “kids.” When some of the investigators came to the airfield without sunscreen and suffered sunburns, so, Donna brought them sunscreen from her home.
“I said, ‘I hope you don’t think I’m mothering you too much,’ but they would just smile and say that it felt good to be cared for and looked after.”
Donna has found that people tend to bond with each other when working in disaster situations, and this time was no different.
Another memorable experience for Donna during this particular deployment happened when a gust of wind blew sugar packets on the ground under the chair of a man who was wrapped up in devastation about the crash. As Donna went to pick up the packets, the man bent down to help her.
“The interesting thing was that [this task] seemed to pull the gentleman out of his thoughts. There we were in that moment, our heads together focused on a menial task. It pulled him momentarily out of his devastation.”
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer go to: http://www.redcross.org/ca/san-francisco/volunteer