Judith Schnatz remembers the exact moment she knew she would become an American Red Cross volunteer.
She was a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and was called to Greene County in 1974 when an F4 tornado struck Xenia. Her team stayed until next day, transporting patients to area hospitals all night.
At 4 o’clock in the morning, Judith said, “It was windy, cold, awful! I was wearing rain gear but was soaked. We were sent to another fire department building to take a break.
“It was raining inside — part of the roof was gone. I was cold, teeth chattering. Someone walked up to me, put a blanket around my shoulders and gave me a cup of coffee. That was a Red Cross volunteer.”
Shortly after that, Judith says, she became a Red Cross volunteer, teaching CPR and First Aid: “Because of that one, simple act of kindness.”
A lifelong resident of Clinton County, Judith had a long career as a registered nurse. She started as Nurse Aide and became a Registered Nurse, working in the Emergency Room, Intensive Care, Mother-Baby, House Hospital Supervisor, Staff Education/Development, and Cardiac Rehabilitation. She became Director of Nursing and Chief Nursing Officer.
She did not volunteer for Red Cross during her hospital nursing career; she retired from her full-time hospital career in 2003.
“In 2008 I thought, I am not giving back to my community,” so she returned to the American Red Cross as a volunteer. Judith was, and is, licensed and became a Disaster Health Services volunteer.
Her Red Cross work included her first deployment to Hurricane Ike in 2008. She also deployed in 2011 to Hurricane Irene. After Hurricane Sandy, Judith worked in the headquarters in New York City for three weeks and oversaw DHS Outreach. This was her first time as a supervisor.
Judith shares that she has been deployed to 28-30 responses, including hurricanes, flooding, a school shooting, and the aftermath of a mass shooting Dayton’s Oregon District.
Over the years, Judith has had the opportunity to use all of her nursing skills and experience. She is now a national level volunteer, working with the National Senior Associate Disaster Health Services as Volunteer Partner. She serves as DHS Division Advisor for the Central Atlantic Division which includes, OH, KY, WV, VA, DE, MD and DC/National Capital Region. Judith is recognized as a subject matter expert in Disaster Health Services.
All this work is done in addition to assisting Central and Southern Ohio Region as Disaster Action Team DHS on-call nurse, to offer emergency help to local families in the aftermath of fire or other disasters.
“It is important for me to work directly with clients,” she said. “I enjoy and need routine client contact to keep me grounded in service and mission delivery and to remain aware of what DHS Volunteers encounter in the field on a daily basis.”
Describing the work of Disaster Health Services, Judith explains, “We work with clients to support them in replacement of health service items they lost as a result of the disaster.” Examples include prescription medications, walkers, wheelchairs, shower seats, nebulizers, CPAP units, dentures, glasses and oxygen.
Health services volunteers assess the clients’ needs and if necessary, provide hands-on care, including dressing changes in a sheltering environment. DHS will refer clients to Disaster Mental Health, Disaster Spiritual Care, and serve on the Integrated Care Condolence Team in the event of fatalities.
In training sessions, Judith says, “Think about your house burning down and you have lost everything including medications and other necessary health items. Clients are overwhelmed with the losses suffered in aftermath of disasters and have no idea how to replace health related items.”
When asked about her accomplishments, Judith is most humble. She explains, “There were people who saw potential in me who took me under their wing and mentored me. It is now time for me to do that for others! I have received a lot of support and learned so much from others in Red Cross. I am just paying it forward.”
Judith gives loads of credit to her husband, Harold, for support he provides. Harold is also a very active Red Cross volunteer. Harold is on the Disaster Action Team, Disaster Services Technology, Logistics, and Sheltering, and taking more courses. He has also deployed multiple times nationally.
Judith said she would encourage licensed health care professionals to consider becoming Red Cross volunteers. Licensed RN, Physician, Physician Assistant EMT, Paramedic, or LPNs are encouraged to become Red Cross Volunteers. Training, orientation, and mentoring is provided by experienced DHS Volunteers.
Reflecting on her 40 years of nursing and volunteer work, Judith says, “To those who have been given much, much is expected.” This is not about me, she insists. “It takes a Team to get things done. Red Cross Volunteers are all part of a Team. Together we accomplish much. I could not do what I do without the support, encouragement, and collaboration of other Red Cross colleagues.”