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Bowling Green Red Cross volunteer waits for Hurricane Ian deployment orders

Deane Oliva.jpg
Deane Oliva
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Deane Oliva of Bowling Green has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2016.

A Red Cross volunteer from Bowling Green is on standby, waiting to respond to hurricane recovery efforts in Florida.

Deane Oliva has responded to multiple natural disasters since 2016, including Hurricanes Florence and Ida, as well as the Uvalde school shooting and the recent flooding in eastern Kentucky.

While some volunteers respond to physical, immediate needs like food and shelter, her job is to provide spiritual care.

“Most people when I speak with them are simply in shock if it’s early on," Oliva said. "One of the things we do is look to give them hope, to assure them about their own strengths, and we talk about their spiritual community, and of course in many disasters, their spiritual community like church has been wiped out.”

Oliva visits shelters and canvasses hard-hit neighborhoods. She’s waiting for airports to reopen and to receive orders on where to deploy.

“I have agreed I will go out within 24 hours once I am called," said Oliva. "Right now, there’s so much flooding going on, it’s not safe, and Red Cross is good about that. They don’t send you out until it’s safe to be in a helping position without worrying about your own safety.”

Seven volunteers from Red Cross chapters in Kentucky are currently in Florida, setting up shelters, feeding the displaced, providing healthcare, as well as mental health services.

Executive Director Jennifer Capps of the Bowling Green chapter says more supplies and volunteers are on standby.

“We have pre-positioned many truckloads of cots, blankets, comfort kits to help 60,000 displaced people, just based on the prediction of the impact in that area," Capps stated. "Lots of people are on standby ready to go as they figure out which areas have been impacted, what the specific needs are, how many people have been displaced in those communities.”

The Red Cross is always in need of more volunteers as the disaster agency still has crews on the ground from this month's typhoon in Alaska and hurricane in Puerto Rico, as well as wildfires in the western U.S.

Based on the magnitude of Hurricane Ian in southwest Florida, volunteer deployments will could last months.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.