Giving her time and energy to help her community, whether across the nation or in her own backyard, is in Diane St. Denis’ blood.
For the past 20 years, the American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter volunteer and former night shift room charge nurse in San Jose’s Valley Medical Center has helped communities nationwide as a Disaster Health Services manager. She has left her home in San Jose to help during 15 national disasters including Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and the recent EF-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.
“Volunteering and helping out the community has simply been engrained in me,” said Diane, who was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. “My mother was always willing to give the shirt off her back and that’s who I’ve looked up to.”
Diane’s personal connection to New York City combined with her background, made her instrumental in the Red Cross Superstorm Sandy disaster relief response. There, she was responsible for hundreds of disaster health services team members and 15 Red Cross shelters in the city of 19 million.
Diane says she and her disaster health services team worked tirelessly to meet their clients’ needs. They visited elderly people trapped in flooded high-rises, without running water, heat, or electricity, walking up 13 to 18 flights of stairs to help get people prescriptions, food, and other necessities.
While in New York for a month, she worked 12-hour days, with just two days off. Long hours don’t faze Diane, who received the highest national honor for a Red Cross Nurse – the Ann Magnusson Award, in 2009.
“I was completely fine with [the long hours] because I knew I was doing something good for the community,” Diane said of her deployment during Superstorm Sandy.
Diane continues to follow in her mother’s footsteps and recently completed two deployments to Oklahoma to assist those affected by the devastating storms and tornadoes that ripped through the state in May.