Gold Country Volunteer Says Kilauea Volcano Disaster was Like No Other

By Denise Nordell

Disaster Volunteer and Case Work Supervisor Jan Campbell has been deployed to more than 15 disasters since joining the Red Cross with her husband, Mike, in 2010. But Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano presented a unique set of challenges to Campbell and her fellow volunteers.

Campbell, shown on the far right in the above photo, was deployed on May 25, one of handful of Gold Country volunteers sent to relieve the first wave of volunteers who arrived soon after the volcano erupted on May 3. At that time, the Red Cross was operating shelters at the Keeau Senior Center (later moved to the Armory), Sure Foundation Church, and—the largest, sheltering more than 200 people—at Pahoa Community Center. Jan and her fellow volunteers were housed at the University of Hawaii dormitories during their stay; Campbell returned home on June 9.

Campbell, who has worked disasters all over the U.S., from the Rim Fire (2013) to Superstorm Sandy (2012-13) and Hurricane Matthew (2016), observed several things that set the Kilauea Volcano apart. For one, “With a fire or flood, the rain eventually stops, or the fire is contained, and you wait until the water or flames subside so people can go back in and reclaim and rebuild their homes.” But with a disaster like Kilauea, where the volcano is still destroying land and homes the situation is still very much in flux the “land” in many cases is gone, and only lava beds remain. Campbell’s task as Case Work Supervisor was to work with clients to plan their next steps toward recovery.

Campbell, who understands that relief missions can be complicated, especially when they involve multiple agencies, felt that the partnership between The Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, county agencies and other organizations worked well. This depended on clearly defined roles for each organization. “There are always bumps in the road, of course,” said Campbell. “But everything fell into place within a short time. When we all work together and focus on our mission — relieving suffering — small differences fall away.” Campbell commented that the supervisory structure for this event was one of the best and most efficient she has experienced.

Another difference that presented some challenges was becoming accustomed to the Hawaiian lifestyle. For example, a “house” might mean something different to an Islander: it might have one fixed wall and screens or fencing. How do you go about replacing that? Many Hawaiians also prefer to live “off the grid,” said Campbell. “They are more laid back and feel less urgency about their day-to-day lives.” This meant that Campbell and her fellow relief workers needed to listen carefully to understand what each client’s idea of recovery meant to him or her. “People are amazingly resilient,” said Campbell.  “But this will be a long haul and that resiliency can understandably wear thin.” Nevertheless, Campbell found her clients to be patient, understanding, and grateful for the assistance they received.

When not deployed, Campbell’s “Steady State” job is working as Territorial Disaster Workforce Engagement Lead. In this role, she helps disaster responders find the assignment that they will enjoy within the Disaster Workforce, guiding them in seeking training classes to give them skills and knowledge through Red Cross classes.

Regardless of the unique challenges Kilauea presents, “Our mission is always the same,” said Campbell. “We are there to relieve human suffering and help [clients] recover and move on.”


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Sign Up Now for Mind/Body Workshop

Our July 14 Mind Body Workshop is for U.S. military, military families, veterans, and friends of military/veterans.

The American Red Cross has created a new series of workshops that engages both the mind and body to address common stress reactions.

Red Cross Mind Body Workshops focus on the interaction between the mind and body and the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors can directly affect health.

Workshop participants practice skills like breathing and meditation, which are proven to lower stress and improve well-being.

Red Cross Mind Body Workshops complement the well-established Reconnection Workshops, which focus on growth through group discussion and skills building.

There is no magic bullet to heal the injuries received while serving our country. Healing takes time and happens differently for each person and family.

This one-time workshop will teach service members, veterans and their families/friends simple tools to help them stay grounded and refocus during times of stress.

Introduction to Mind-Body Skills is perfect for those that are who are just getting started or are hesitant about trying mind-body awareness. The workshop covers breathing, mindfulness techniques, stretching and movement, body awareness and guided imagery.

Space is limited so sign up here today!


Founders of Cpl. Palmer Foundation Share Why Operation Care Package Means So Much

As stated by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In this same vein, sometimes a life full of purpose begins with a single caring deed. For Chuck and Teri Palmer of Manteca, California, their journey began with the desire to take meaningful action following the combat death of their son Charles during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Corporal Charles O. Palmer II was your everyday sort of hero. He was the kind who knew his deepest sense of peace and purpose could only be found in service to others. After five years serving as a reservist in the Marine Corps, he called his father to say he wanted to enlist in the Marines fulltime and was not going to settle for anything less than a role at the epicenter of combat operations.

“I told him to sit on it for 30 days,” said Chuck Palmer, “make sure he was really thinking this through.”
Cpl. Palmer II wasn’t a naïve man. He knew the cost of service, saying, “Mom, I hope my wife understands I won’t be the same man as when I left.”

For someone called to service, wishing he was out there fighting beside his brothers-in-arms as soon as possible, it’s easy to imagine how long those 30 days must have felt. But wait he did. And enlist he did. And so began the daily badgering of his sergeant major, asking for combat placement until the commander finally tired of Charles’ persistence and gave him orders to report to Iraq’s Al Anbar province, a region thick within the soup of combat.

“Once he rejoined, he said, ‘I’m home and I’ve never been happier,’” says Chuck Palmer, who put aside his concerns for his son’s safety in the truest show of support a father can give.
On May 5, 2007, Corporal Palmer was killed during a security sweep when his Humvee stuck a roadside improvised explosive device. He was never assigned to the security detail, but was simply tasked with finding a replacement for a soldier injured on an earlier expedition.

For anyone who knows parents Chuck and Teri Palmer, it is clear where their son inherited his strength and courage. Within only a few short years they formed a far-reaching non-profit dedicated to caring for all sons and daughters busy in service to their country.

The Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support Program began with care packages sent to their son-in-law in early 2008 and grew to over 1,800 packages sent to troops stationed across the world by the end of the year. And their efforts only skyrocketed from there. Involved in everything from veteran suicide awareness to fundraising drives for family members of those lost in combat, Chuck and Teri have become a true force of support for our troops and those closest to them.

“We owe it to them to let our soldiers know they are loved and supported by the community,” said Teri Palmer.
And their reason for care packages? The joy on the soldiers’ faces in photos sent back in thanks for a little taste of home. Their biggest surprise? The way the community has come together to help rally support: raising funds, collecting goods, and coming together to package the items and see them off, including hand-written letters that soldiers say are every bit as heartening as the goods they receive.

According to Chuck and Teri, the real secret of their success in reaching so many has been collaboration. For the past three years they have been working with the American Red Cross which, thanks to programs such as Operation Care Package, “offer(s) gobs and gobs of supplies to local veteran organizations.”

According to Teri, Operation Care Package is “a very well-planned event. They knock on doors, working hard to get donations. It is clear that the Red Cross has a real desire to serve and protect. It’s an honor to be asked to part of it.”
The Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support Program welcomes addresses for care packages for soldiers stationed anywhere in the world as well as any family members of soldiers or veterans in need of a little heartfelt giving. Their non-profit operates entirely on word of mouth.

They can be found online at and on Facebook at