RALEIGH, N.C. — President Joe Biden will head to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey tornado damage. Dozens are confirmed dead, with more missing, days after a deadly tornado outbreak across eight states, including Kentucky.
What You Need To Know
Disaster relief organizations in our community, like Red Cross, are sending more volunteers to Kentucky after a tornado outbreak
Longtime volunteer Judy Nicholson is being deployed to help with mental health of survivors and families of victims
Nicholson will also be there to support her Red Cross colleagues who are working on the frontlines of relief efforts
In our community, disaster relief organizations are sending volunteers to help the victims hardest hit.
Judy Nicholson, a retired therapist, is flying from North Carolina to the epicenter of the disaster in Kentucky on Tuesday. In the aftermath of tragedy, her job is to help survivors and the families of victims who are struggling with their mental health.
Nicholson, a volunteer for over 25 years, has been to about 90 disasters with the Red Cross.
“Basically I’ve been doing disaster mental health since its inception as part of the Red Cross services,” Nicholson said.
She is part of a small team of Red Cross volunteers who are on the ground to support relief efforts, which includes ensuring people have a safe place to stay, food to eat and critical relief supplies. For Nicholson, her job is to go to where the people are.
“Just helping out wherever we see the need, including working with families of the casualties and the people of the town and the community,” Nicholson said.
Her work includes being in the field to find people, impacted directly or indirectly, who need her emotional support services, including at the Red Cross shelters.
“As one of the mental health counselors with Red Cross, we’re not therapists. We are there to just alleviate the emotional suffering as best we can. A lot of ways we do that is by just listening,” she said.
Even though Nicholson has previously covered deadly tornados, she says seeing the images coming out of Kentucky this weekend prompted her to want to help.
“I knew it was bad. And I have been on disasters where there have been many, many, many deaths. I have been on tornado disasters of lots of different sizes,” Nicholson said. “But because I’ve been on so many I realize that everybody’s disaster is their own. I don’t compare.”
Red Cross mental health is also there for its own staff, who are working around the clock with relief efforts in a disaster zone.
Nicholson predicts this will be a long recovery process for the people impacted by the tornado outbreak.
“I’m not a religious person, but being a channel of His peace. It’s like I’m the pipe through which the donations, the heart, America goes through in order to reach out and help those people in Kentucky,” she said.
Nicholson is planning to be in Kentucky for at least two weeks. She will then assess her own mental health before deciding if she should stay longer.