By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer
A truck navigates through areas devastated by Hurricane Ian, some previously inaccessible, arriving at a Florida camp. People of all ages and backgrounds wait, others emerge from their homes. Many are migrant workers. American Red Cross personnel, among them Monica Bunner, had worked with community members to ensure those here, like all who needed aid, receive it.
As Monica opens the truck’s doors to distribute supplies from the Red Cross and partner organizations, she notes people’s expressions. Faces convey the realization they have not been forgotten; that people care. Monica describes the feeling as what Red Cross founder Clara Barton must have experienced caring for soldiers—, as fuel for the soul.
This was during Monica Bunner’s third deployment of 2022; her second to Florida after Hurricane Ian. She estimates she has deployed around 20 times since joining the Red Cross in 2017. Based in the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley chapter, she also serves in several capacities here in Northern Ohio.
I am often awed by the dedication, caring, competence, and experience of fellow Red Cross volunteers and staff. I recently spoke with Monica, who brings a lifetime of volunteerism, caring, and dedication to her work with the Red Cross.
Monica has volunteered throughout her life. Even before joining the Red Cross, her activities included helping people in women’s shelters, caring for animals, working with national organizations, and serving on local zoning boards. Her work helping animals is what brought her to the Red Cross.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Monica was deployed with an animal welfare organization where she worked alongside Red Cross volunteers and decided to join.
Monica has since helped a tremendous number of people in many roles, including the three 2022 deployments. The first was to Puerto Rico in a disaster technology capacity role, where she assisted with flooding and helped prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
Shortly after Ian, Monica deployed to Florida to supervise family reunification efforts. She spoke of the intensity of helping families reach loved ones, many of whom had medical issues. As several areas were not reachable, she worked with search and rescue personnel, a realtor, and others to help locate people. Monica described connecting the dots and reunifying a family as elating and sharing in the joy.
After taking a short break to celebrate her 32nd wedding anniversary, Monica returned to Florida and worked with community partnerships and engagement, particularly with Latino communities, as she is bilingual. She, her team, and partner organizations worked to reach those in need who may not have realized assistance was available. This deployment was when she brought supplies to the camp.
Monica said adventure has always been part of her approach to life, as well as a love of learning, and the Red Cross offers both. She said her Red Cross work is an opportunity to go out and do good with like-minded and like-hearted people. It also offers the ability to align belief with actions and fuel the soul.
For those interested in volunteering, Monica pointed out there are opportunities for all ages and backgrounds, but to be flexible as each deployment is different, and to “Go for it!” Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday to learn more.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer