by Amy Yen, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
Anngie Johnson retired from the Red Cross on August 18, after 16 years with the organization. Not even one week later, she found herself called back to duty to help with the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.
“I wanted to retire because I have new grandbabies, I’m nearing the ripe age of 68 and I thought it was time to enjoy life,” Anngie explains. “But then this hurricane happened and it brought me back to working hard to help people. It’s my mission. It’s always been my mission.”
Anngie has been with the Dallas chapter of the Red Cross since 2009, most recently as the disaster program manager. But even as she stepped away from her full-time duties, she always intended to stay on as a volunteer.
“I told them, I’m not retiring. I’m transitioning. I’m going back to being a volunteer. That’s where I started anyway,” says Anngie.
So, as Harvey made landfall and the Red Cross prepared its massive relief operation, Anngie did what she first did all those years ago: raised her hand and volunteered to help.
“When I heard about the hurricane, I knew I had to do something,” she explains. “So when they opened the first shelter in Dallas, I volunteered to help open it. Then I moved on to running the next shelter that opened, and the one after that.”
The one after that turned out to be the colossal downtown shelter set up at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. As shelter manager, Anngie is responsible for overseeing the care of more than 2,600 evacuees.
In the process, her retirement plans have gone on hold.
“I had a vacation planned. I missed my 48th wedding anniversary. I missed my grandbaby’s second birthday. Those are things I had to cancel,” Anngie says, but with no regret. “I was okay with that. I talked to my family on the phone. If I had truly been retired, I would have visited.”
But the mission called to her. She even stood up to volunteer before she could be asked, joining more than 2,700 Red Cross disaster responders on the ground for this operation.
“I said, I’m available, guys. Call me. We don’t self-deploy, but I did tell them, I’m ready, I’m available.”
The Harvey relief operation will be a long one. Anngie knows this; she has worked a lot of large disasters in her 16 years. There are still evacuees coming in. She’s ready to keep working as long as she is needed.
“I have a vacation planned to go to D.C. See some museums. And then I’m going to New York, maybe see a show,” she says. “I’m retiring for real.”
At least until the mission calls her again.
Want to join Anngie and help respond to local and national disasters around the country every day? Become a Red Cross volunteer at RedCross.org/Volunteer.