Book Proposal


Bringing Hope:

A Disaster Relief Journey


by Debbie McKinney




When terrorists attack, tornadoes make homes disappear, or hurricanes have communities tumbling like building blocks, our hearts weep for those in need. We are compelled to help; though we don't know how. She can. She's trained. But, she wasn't expecting the emotional journey her Red Cross disaster volunteering would take her on. Through her volunteering she's gained experiences that will haunt her forever.


Bring Hope: A Disaster Relief Journey is the memoir of a woman who helped families as an American Red Cross disaster volunteer. After 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, New Jersey flooding, and Hurricane Sandy she helped families and individuals begin their recovery process, keeping a daily journal of what was experienced. She would send these journal stories home to family, friends, and colleagues so they would know how help was being provided and what she was doing. These daily journals provide a unique view behind-the-scenes of what a volunteer does, experiences, and feels.


Before and throughout national deployments, she also volunteered in her home community. Called to many fires in the middle of the night as a disaster volunteer, she made sure families had food, shelter, and clothing.


The book has been vetted by the National office of the American Red Cross. It has been critiqued and professionally edited.


Author Profile

This 62,000 word memoir gives insight into the unique and unknown world of disaster volunteering, based on twenty years with the American Red Cross. As a graduate of Marquette University majoring in Interpersonal Communication, she learned skills needed to traverse many difficult emotional situations. The story "One Phone Call Makes A Difference" is published in Stories of Service by CSA Sponsored Ministries. It is a short story of volunteer work after 9/11 in Washington, D.C. For many years she led the Disaster Action Team in her community. The author is a past board member of the local Red Cross chapter and served on a state disaster consortium. With a love of public speaking she has shared her disaster experiences at Rotary Club Meetings, Optimist Groups, on local cable television, and at nursing homes.


Her full time working profession was as a financial aid administrator. Fifteen years as the Financial Aid Director at Marian College, a small Catholic college in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and fifteen years previous working in the financial aid office at Marquette University. During these years she held a variety of leadership roles with state and regional financial aid professional organizations. After thirty years in the Financial Aid profession she now enjoys retirement.




The Audience:

The audience most likely to purchase this book are the over 500,000 American Red Cross volunteers who donate their time every day, in their communities. In addition, there are over 30,000 employees. All of them are aware of national deployments; but haven't been able to experience them. This book will provide a firsthand account of what that experience encompasses. As a retired Financial Aid Director she maintains membership along with over 350 others of the Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.


Other potential audiences:

            College and high school students interested in volunteering

            High School International Baccalaureate programs which require volunteer time

            Teachers/Professors of Psychology Courses

            People who have not volunteered and want to know what it's like

            Individuals who would like to find closure by hearing my story

            Those who are unable to respond to disasters, but are affected in thought and prayer

            Personal social network connections of over 300 individuals



There continues to be a nationwide interest in events of such magnitude as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy.


Being a first time author, there is much to learn in the area of promotion. She is ready to learn what will be required to promote this book. The author enjoys talking about her volunteer experiences. She is willing to travel as needed. Enjoying public speaking, she is experienced with both large and small group settings.


What she will do:

            Contact book stores to stock the book

            Attend signings

            Contact colleges and high schools to speak during psychology courses

            Advertise through social media

            Reach out to local and national television

            Individuals in Houston, Milwaukee, and Sarasota are ready to plan Wine and Sign events

            Donate copies of book to local libraries



This memoir stands alone. Much has been told about what happened on 9/11. But, there are no other books that tell of the behind the scenes journey of a casework volunteer. This story goes beyond 9/11 to tell of disaster volunteering after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Northern New Jersey flooding, and experience within the community.


Table of Contents

Chapter One                    Becoming a Disaster Volunteer, 1992

Chapter Two                    Terror and Loss - September 11, 2001

Chapter Three                  Daily Journals of My 9/11/2001 Disaster Response

Chapter Four                    Where Were You on September 11, 2001?

Chapter Five                    Heartfelt Wishes from Family and Friends

Chapter Six                      Every August

Chapter Seven                 60 Minutes and Mike Wallace

Chapter Eight                  Night in the Life of a Disaster Volunteer 1992-2013

Chapter Nine                   Hurricane Katrina Arrives, 2005

Chapter Ten                     Bones - Daily Journals of Hurricane Katrina Disaster Response       

Chapter Eleven                Reverse 911 - New Jersey Floods, 2010

Chapter Twelve               Hurricane Sandy Arrives, 2012

Chapter Thirteen              Lady Liberty Stands Sentinel - Daily Journals of Hurricane Sandy

Chapter Fourteen             Compassion Fatigue, 2013

Chapter Fifteen                Don’t Wait For the Right Time, Make It the Right Time - Volunteer

Chapter Sixteen               The American Red Cross

Chapter Seventeen           Plan, Prepare, and Practice

Chapter Eighteen             Remembrance, 2016


Chapter Summaries


Chapter One, Becoming a Disaster Volunteer, 1992

This chapter tells of the author's path and reasons for becoming an American Red Cross disaster volunteer in both an urban and rural setting. It describes what typical fire responses are like and the adrenaline rush experienced. It also tells of taking on the role as an American Red Cross national responder.


Chapter Two, Terror and Loss - September 11, 2001

This chapter is geared toward readers who are not familiar with the events of 9/11. It is a very short description of the sequence of events. These events have been discussed in many publications; therefore, this book does not review the circumstances in detail.


Chapter Three, Daily Journals of My 9/11/2001 Disaster Response

From Friday, September 28, 2001 through Sunday, October 21, 2001 the author was stationed in the Washington, D. C. area at a call center. Every day she kept a journal of what occurred. In her role as a Red Cross caseworker, she would spend each day speaking with families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on flights that crashed. She would speak with a man whose wife died while working at a branch bank in the World Trade Center, a husband whose wife died at the Pentagon, a Woman in Minnesota whose sister died in a Pennsylvania field and another woman who had parts of her husband delivered to her on three separate occasions. This memoir is about the author's every day experiences and feelings.


Chapter Four, Where Were You on September 11, 2001?

The author shares where she and her family members were at the moment they heard about the events of 9/11. As soon as any conversation of 9/11 comes up, people are compelled to share where they were and what they experienced. Two of Debbie's three children were out of the country, one with the army in Bosnia and one on her honeymoon in Mexico. There is also a bit about a grandchild dying before birth due to the Anthrax vaccine.


Chapter Five, Heartfelt Wishes from Friends and Family

The daily journals were shared with family, friends, and colleagues back home. Many of them sent emails and cards with words of comfort, well-wishes, and thanks for taking on the role of helping the families of those who lost loved ones. These wishes were sent from the heart "I'm not at all surprised in your willingness to accept this tasking since you have been with Red Cross numerous years, but I think you must agree the magnitude of this operation was larger than anything you have previously done."


Chapter Six, Every August

This short chapter describes what the author faces every August as the anniversary day approaches. It tells of irritation, nightmares, and tears.


Chapter Seven, 60 Minutes and Mike Wallace

On March 10, 2002 the show called 60 Minutes aired a story by Mike Wallace about supposed problems within the American Red Cross. This story, on the eve of the sixth month anniversary of 9/11/2001, reported false and misleading information. The episode had a profound effect on the author causing her to write to Mr. Wallace. It shares his phone call to her and their conversation discussing his "heinous act of reporting."


Chapter Eight, Night In The Life of a Disaster Volunteer 1992-2013

For her twenty-plus years of volunteering the author's primary role was as a Disaster Action Team member and as the Chairperson of this team. It shares what it's like responding to house fires, barn fires, and flooded homes. She encountered a mother who wanted to kill her son, rural barn fires that last all night, kids playing with firecrackers inside the house, and a soon-to-be bride who hung her wedding dress on the fire sprinkler and flooded her neighbors apartment. Responding to these small disaster events was a much enjoyed calling, feeling good about being able to help a family in a time of greatest need.


Chapter Nine, Hurricane Katrina Arrives, 2005

The author briefly describes how Hurricane Katrina developed near the Bahamas, the path it took, and the changes in its strength as it headed toward the United States Gulf Coast.


Chapter Ten, Bones - Daily Journals of Hurricane Katrina Disaster Response

Like the 9/11 chapter, the Hurricane Katrina chapter is the sharing of daily journals kept by the author while in Mississippi for three weeks after the storm surge inundated the gulf shore states. The author shares what it takes to prepare when leaving for a three week calling. It tells of fifty-five volunteers sharing one make-shift courtyard shower. This chapter tells how it feels to be welcomed into a community where "Southern Hospitality" is movingly exemplified by everyone. And, it tells of the families recovering from the twenty-four tornadoes that hit one county in one day, spawned by the hurricane as it flew over land. On her day off the author visited and saw the destruction felt along the coast leaving the beach scattered with bones, and endless steps that led to nowhere, their homes gone.


Chapter Eleven, Reverse 911 - New Jersey Floods, 2010

Not all major disasters have the huge media impact felt by 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Nevertheless, they are just as important to the Red Cross as a single family house fire and a terrorist attack. In March, 2010, New Jersey experienced record flooding especially in the central and northern parts of the state. The author responded and went door-to-door in vibrantly mixed ethnic communities asking clients how they are doing and providing help when necessary. With basements collapsed, boats flooded, and feet of mud in first floor living areas, the clean-up will take many months. The author had the chance to get a smile from a little girl when presented with a teddy bear after being rescued by boat. Debbie also had an opportunity to provide comfort to children who saw their cousin drown in the hotel pool where the volunteers were staying.


Chapter Twelve, Hurricane Sandy Arrives, 2012

It's the roller coaster I remember most. In this chapter the author shares the path that this hurricane took as it approached New Jersey and New York. It tells that hundreds of individuals died in eight states, the Caribbean, Haiti, and Canada. It talks of unprecedented needs and massive destruction.


Chapter Thirteen, Lady Liberty Stands Sentinel-Daily Journals of Hurricane Sandy

This chapter shares the journals of the author's response to Hurricane Sandy; and the time she spent in New York City and upstate New York. She was able to help families from a mobile home community along the Hudson River, that was destroyed by the storm surge. She spent a week at a YMCA in Midtown Manhattan helping mostly single men get back on their feet, and, the story of a man who lost his home, motorized wheel chair, leg prosthesis, and wife all in one night.


Chapter Fourteen, Compassion Fatigue, 2013

After more than twenty years of responding to local and national disasters, the author finds that time takes a toll. "After years of providing comfort and support; after years of listening to pain and sorrow, the author may have reached a point in time where she was ready to take a break from the anguish and loss." Encouraging others to become disaster leaders, the author leaves the disaster responding to others who are able to carry on this important mission.


Chapter Fifteen, Don't wait for the right time, Make it the right time - Volunteer

In addition to volunteering with the Red Cross, there are many other excellent volunteer opportunities. Not everyone is ready to take on disasters. The author encourages people to interrupt their busy lives by making time to do some volunteer work no matter how much or how little. She tells of the importance of being a responsible volunteer.


Chapter Sixteen, The American Red Cross

This chapter provides a very brief overview of how the Red Cross got its start in the United States letting people know this isn't a government agency and receives no government funding.


Chapter Seventeen, Plan, Prepare, and Practice

A short chapter on preparedness learned from the many disaster responses the author went to. This chapter lists tips to help anyone before a disaster occurs.


Chapter Eighteen, Remembrance, 2016

On September 11, 2016 the author was invited to the Fifteenth Anniversary remembrance events at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City. As a neighbor to the World Trade Center this Chapel survived the collapse of the buildings and became a place where volunteers could find respite as they combed Ground Zero looking for people who died in the collapse. This chapter tells of the journey the author took to New York City in order to remember those she helped during her many years of volunteering, especially those who died on September 11, 2001.