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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


‘Tis the Season for Volunteering … with the MRC

Author: Brennan Leddy, Communications Specialist, Medical Reserve Corps Program
Published Date: 12/21/2016 3:28:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery; Exercises & Trainings;

This holiday season and into the New Year, I challenge us to also think of ways that we can give of our professional skills, training, and time to serve our local communities. While there are countless ways to do so — many of which were mentioned on the November ASPR blog — the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) provides a unique volunteer opportunity to strengthen public health and improve the safety of your community.

Established in 2002, the Medical Reserve Corps began with 42 community-based volunteer units and a shared mission to build strong, healthy, and prepared communities. Today, our network comprises nearly 200,000 volunteers in almost 1,000 MRC units nationwide. From being among the first to respond to natural disasters; to organizing blood drives and vaccination clinics; to leading preparedness training exercises and engaging youth in public health, MRC volunteers are not only on the front lines of emergency response, but are continually working to  reduce disaster risk and build healthy and resilient communities.

Last year, MRC units collectively participated in more than 18,000 public health, preparedness, and response activities. 2016 has proven to be equally as busy. Volunteers have stepped up across the country to support health emergencies, natural disasters, and large community events. Below are a few highlights from the year, which help to illustrate the diversity of efforts.

In 2016, MRC units:

  • Prepared for and responded to the Zika virus nationwide. Volunteers provided education and outreach, performed vector control assessments, and conducted Zika testing in local communities. In Puerto Rico, where the Zika virus was declared a public health emergency, more than 140 MRC volunteers provided near-daily education and outreach, reaching approximately 17,000 individuals.

  • Provided Psychological First Aid to community and family members in the wake of the Orlando, FL, shooting incident.

  • Responded to flooding in Texas and Louisiana, collecting donations and providing support and sheltering for affected individuals and their pets.

  • Supported the Democratic and Republican National Conventions this summer, including staffing first aid stations.

  • Assisted with nursing home evacuation planning, and served as clinical and support staff at local shelters during Hurricane Matthew.

  • Collaborated with community partners to organize and staffa volunteer-driven clinic that provided free medical, dental, and vision services to members of the Seattle community.Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, the clinic was able to serve 4,492 patients over four days.

  • Continued to confront the nation’s opioid crisis. MRC volunteers are working tirelessly in communities hard hit to educate individuals on prescription drug abuse; participate in prescription drug take-back / safe disposal events; and train law enforcement and emergency responders on the use of Narcan (naloxone), a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. And MRC efforts are making a difference — the MRC Narcan project in LaSalle County, IL, has been credited with saving 12 lives from overdoses.
Alexandria MRC volunteers in Virginia wear “Fight The Bite” vests. Volunteers educated their community on how to prevent mosquito bites and the spread of viruses like Zika.   Nearly 300 MRC volunteers in King County/Seattle, WA, participated in a four-day volunteer-driven free medical, dental, and vision clinic serving more than 4,000 patients.

In addition to the impact these activities have on our communities and nation, volunteerism has tangible benefits to us as individuals as well. There is a sense of pride, accomplishment, and connectedness in helping to ensure our neighborsare safe and healthy. When we look out for each other in our local communities, our nation is stronger.

If you are interested in serving your community, I invite you to join us. Find an MRC unit near you, talk to your local coordinator, ask what their needs are and how you can serve. Your neighbors, community, and nation will be healthier and stronger because of you!


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