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Superior volunteer poised for hurricane relief efforts

Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com American Red Cross volunteer Diane Dunder loads supplies onto the emergency response vehicle she is driving to North Carolina Tuesday in Duluth. She will be part of Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

Retirement means different things to different people. Some look forward to hunting and fishing; some like to travel. Diane Dunder, a retired physical education teacher from Superior High School, focuses on helping others.

The Red Cross volunteer is poised to help victims of Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm targeting North and South Carolina. She and fellow volunteer Judy Pike from St. Cloud, Minnesota, drove to Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, to set up for a three-week deployment.

"We're taking our Red Cross emergency response vehicle down with us," said Dunder, who lives in Superior.

As the situation develops, they expect to be called in to offer mobile services to hurricane-stricken areas.

"We're kind of like the ice cream man and we are delivering lunch and dinner," Dunder said. "We'll either be going around neighborhoods or staging someplace. If they don't need us for feeding, then they put us into bulk and we distribute products to people that they can use for cleanup and recovery."

This isn't Dunder's first hurricane. In fact, this is the 33rd national disaster she's responded to since becoming a volunteer in 2003. Her first was Hurricane Isabel. Since then, she's been involved in a lot of big-name storms — Sandy, Katrina and Irene\ — and was in the Virgin Islands in the wake of Irma and Maria last year.

"It's been an education and an adventure," Dunder said. "You learn. You meet the most wonderful people, whether they're volunteers or whether they're the people that you're helping. You can't go wrong."

It's also a workout, she said Tuesday as she loaded food containers onto the vehicle.

Monetary donations are being taken for relief efforts.

"We don't bring trucks of water or clothes down," Dunder said. "We rely on the donated dollar. That way they can get what they really need."

The American Red Cross Serving Northern Minnesota and Douglas County is always seeking volunteers, according to disaster program specialist Eric Adams.

After completing training and a background check, volunteers serve in many capacities. Some travel to disaster areas for deployments of at least two weeks. Others are called on to help at the scene of local house and apartment fires to assist people who have been affected. Volunteers can also install smoke detectors in homes or provide other local services.

If you want to help, Adams said, now is the time to apply.

Every disaster relief effort is different, Dunder said, and she's been happy to play her part. It all started when she retired in 2003.

"I just decided that I wanted to volunteer," Dunder said. "It just seemed like a great idea. And it was one of the best ideas I've ever had."

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