COVID-19 brought an influx of volunteers to many Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units. As pandemic-related missions shift in scale or wind down, units may be looking for opportunities to continue to engage volunteers.
In Williamson County, Texas, volunteer engagement begins with one-on-one interviews (most recently conducted over Zoom). Williamson County MRC Unit Leader Tim St. Peter uses motivational interviewing to identify each volunteer’s interests and skills, and to identify community need.
To build longevity in the MRC and to keep volunteers interested and active, the unit has developed teams. Each team was started by an individual volunteer who became the lead for the team and manages/coordinates the team.
Tim sees his job as giving resources, coordinating, supporting leaders, and promoting the work of the teams.
“We’re building a family,” said Tim. “Once you have a family in place, they invite other people to come join us. This takes away so much pressure of recruiting.”
The Williamson County MRC includes medical and non-medical volunteers who are prepared to respond to emergency and disaster events; the MRC also has six teams that work in the community in an on-going basis.
The Wise Owl Team recognizes the desire and fundamental need for our elders to have some sort of outside contact with others. Because of the social restrictions placed on assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes facilities, they have organized scheduled phone calls to engage residents, who otherwise may not have the opportunity to have a visitor. They have also coordinated with volunteers, their families, friends, co-workers, and students to create hand-crafted cards to donate to several facilities.
The New Parent Assistance Team’s mission is to shine a light in the adversity faced by new parents and support them as they navigate newfound parenthood. Volunteers serve a tremendous role in providing wellbeing check-ins, ensuring all necessities for new parents are met, and directing resources where needed.
The Youth Engagement Services Team was established to teach and mentor high school and undergraduate students about public health and medical professions. This includes a six-week webinar series which covers topics ranging from how to apply for college, how to find scholarships, to how to prepare for pre-med classes and how to find internships. Each webinar will have two to three guest speakers who share how they made their career choice to how they dealt with struggles in school and career. After the webinar series finished, students can request a mentor to help them with projects and other needs for the remainder of the school year.
The MRC VOT (Volunteer Office Team) provides volunteers to help at the Williamson County and Cities Health District in various departments. Volunteers will assist with day-to-day activities including data entry, fund-raising, Census 2020 outreach, social media efforts, Healthy Williamson County Coalition, etc.
The VECTOR Program prepares and distributes materials to areas where the mosquito population has been tested positive for West Nile Virus. Volunteers set up an information table at parks and local events within the areas where positive tests have been identified to get the message out so that families can be aware and follow the needed precautions.
The MRC University Team was developed to focus on recruiting undergraduate and graduate students in Williamson County and empowering them to create new MRC projects that they care about, as well as volunteer with other MRC projects. They also provide campus outreach to promote COVID safety to students living in dorms and attending classes on campus.
One example of how the teams work together is a project by the high school team to make blankets for Alzheimer’s patients. The MRC University Team helped with the blankets. The WISE Owl team identified those in need and delivered the blankets. This allowed the volunteers to interact and get to know each other.