Philly mental health volunteer headed to Okla.

Posted: May 21, 2013

In the wake of Monday's tornadoes in Oklahoma, volunteers are being deployed from around the country to assist in the recovery, including a woman from Philadelphia.

Danelle Stoppel, a volunteer mental health supervisor with the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, will leave at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to fly to the tornado-ravaged area. It will be Stoppel's 13th disaster deployment in just two years volunteering with the organization, helping her earn the nickname "Deployment Danelle."

"My role is a transition role. My role is that I understand what's happened to them and I understand that they are faced with having to do it again - get another home," said the 67-year-old Fairmount resident.

Stoppel, who was also deployed to Boston following the marathon bombing, experienced a bit of déjà vu when she got the call to deploy Monday - on her birthday. It was two years ago to the day she was called to deploy to Tuscaloosa, Ala., after a tornado destroyed much of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham and killed 64 people.

Stoppel said she is unsure where she will be working or how long she will be deployed, although the typical deployment lasts 14 days, but the retired school psychologist said she expects to find a similar situation as she did in Tuscaloosa.

"Tornadoes unfortunately are very, very difficult things to see," she said. "It's devastation. It's almost something you can't describe."

Yet, Stoppel said she is inspired by the resilience victims show in the face of such disasters.

"To be able to see people deal with the reality of these situations, it's amazing to watch. The best of people comes out," she said. "It's just amazing the strength people have to get through this."

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