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Red Cross volunteer Hope Koestner will soon be in Georgia, offering flood victims exactly what her name implies: hope. Last week, severe weather caused flooding in and around Atlanta. The storms damaged nearly two-thousand homes and killed nine people.
This is not Koestner’s first disaster mission, it’s actually her sixth. In 2008, Koestner traveled to Louisiana for Hurricane Gustav, a tornado in Georgia and flooding and a tornado in Iowa. She also assisted victims of Hurricane Wilma in 2005. While each trip is different, Koestner said the experiences with the people are similar.
“You laugh with them. You try to cheer them up. You cry with them,” Koestner said. “Everything they feel you feel. It’s like stepping from our world into a different world.”
Koestner plans to put her nursing skills to good use, but she will also be assisting with people’s basic needs, like food and housing.
“You don’t realize just how important those basic needs are until you don’t have them anymore,” said Jody Weyers from the Lakeland Chapter of the American Red Cross in Green Bay.
Koestner said in some ways volunteers like her have the easy job.
“We’re just doing something that we’re blessed enough to be able to do,” Koestner said. “The true heroes are the people that we leave behind, the spouses, the children, the people that have to keep things going on a daily basis while we’re gone. They’re the ones that are making the big sacrifice.”
Koestner’s husband Kevin said it’s easy to support what she’s doing.
“She enjoys doing it. The people that she’s helping really appreciate it and it gives her a good sense of accomplishment so yeah you can’t help but support that,” Kevin Koestner said.
Hope Koestner said her volunteer work has taught her a very valuable lesson she wants to share with everyone in the community.
“You may think your life is wonderful and that things can’t go wrong. Anything can happen anytime,” Koestner said. “And if you spend two hours with some of these affected people after the disasters, it changes your whole life.”
By volunteering, Koestner hopes to change other people’s lives as well. Koestner is leaving Wednesday morning from Austin Straubel International airport. She plans to be in Georgia for two weeks.