Established in 2018, the Brown County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) serves a very rural county in central Texas. Shortly after launching, the unit’s volunteers became active in COVID-19 response, assisting with drive-through and walk-up clinics. It’s activities now include community service events and education around mosquito and general preparedness. At a Cinco de Mayo celebration earlier this year, volunteers also hosted a cooling station.
While continuing its community support, the unit is now focusing attention on recruiting to grow its current cadre of 27 active volunteers. MRC Coordinator Ashley Belez has tried different ways to recruit including connections through the nursing schools and colleges. In April, the unit tried something new—hosting a volunteer fair alongside other area volunteer organizations.
“This was an opportunity for those interested in volunteering an opportunity to learn about multiple entities,” said Belez.
Planning for the fair started about three months in advance. Belez reached out via email to community partners she knew hosted volunteers to invite them to take part. In total, 17 organizations participated, including some organizations Belez didn’t realize had volunteers. Participants included the Salvation Army, a community garden, the train museum, a shelter that supports women, the animal shelter, and the Red Cross.
The fair was held that the City’s community center, with that space provided free from the city. The event was set up in a big open room with tables around the perimeter for each organization. The health department (the MRC’s sponsoring agency) printed big signs with each organization’s logo to hang behind the tables. Upon entering, attendees received a printed map letting them know of table locations around the room and a draw string bag to hold the information they collected. The local grocery store donated water. Participating organizations each hosted a door prize at their table.
To promote the event, the MRC used Facebook (both organic and paid posts), did interviews on the local radio station morning shows, and posted banners and signs around town. They also shared the event flyer with those participating to share within their own networks. On the day of the event, banners from participating organizations were placed outside the community center.
“About 50 people came through the fair,” said Belez. “Those organizations participating did recruit volunteers and are eager to do the fair again.”
The MRC recruitment table included a banner with the unit’s mission, a rack card, Texas Ready first aid kits, flashlights, Belez’s business card, and volunteer applications.
As the unit continues its recruitment efforts, Belez is next targeting doctor and dentist offices. The unit will make bags for local offices which include a scan code directing staff to details on how to take part.
While recruiting new volunteers, the unit is also working on volunteer engagement and will begin quarterly meetings for volunteers with trainings and/or guest speakers. Between meetings they will seek to participate in community events.