RICHMOND, Va. — Volunteer organizations like Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) are asking for help to continue vaccinating families against COVID-19.
MRC State Volunteer Coordinator Jennifer Freeland said there are more than 2,700 volunteers in the metro-Richmond area ready to be deployed to help to vaccinate individuals.
Freeland called the vaccination rollout a ‘monumental unprecedented task” and likened the efforts to running up Mount Everest in order to get everyone vaccinated.
“It has been overwhelming and appreciative for everyone who has stepped forward so far,” she explained.
Most MRC units across the state have gained at least 800 volunteers in the past year.
Alyssa Lewis, the coordinator for the Henrico and Chickahominy Health Districts, said her team increased by 1,000 volunteers since the pandemic began.
“It’s absolutely been a whirlwind,” she said. “They don’t get paid for what they’re doing. They’re dedicating their time. A lot of them are retired but a lot of them are still working too.”
MRC is open to anyone 18 years and older who can pass a background check and their application process. Medical experience isn’t required.
“We had them vaccinating and as people were coming in they were doing data entry. They were doing registration. They were even outside when it was snowing in golf carts escorting the seniors going in and out,” Lewis stated.
Lewis said there’s a cycle of volunteer groups who after working for a few weeks desire a break. Another group of volunteers then take their place.
Amy Popovich, a nurse manager and COVID-19 vaccine lead for the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts, echoed the need for volunteers during their Monday press conference.
“I call them our hands and our feet. They really help to increase our capacity during the start of this pandemic,” she stated. “Volunteer whether it’s one time or 10 times we appreciate the support.”
A good volunteer is someone who has the flexibility to be called upon to serve at a moment's notice while having a giving heart, Lewis said.
MRC is always accepting applications which can be found at vamrc.org.
They ask you to be patient while waiting for a response during the ongoing pandemic and recent influx in applicants.
Chesterfield County trains citizens for disasters
Steven Herring coordinates Chesterfield County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program.
While separate from MRC, Herring said they have 1,500 CERT volunteers standing by to serve.
He said some members have recently assisted with the vaccination clinics at the Chesterfield Fairgrounds.
Herring started leading the program on March 9, which was just days before the statewide lockdown went into effect.
“I fully believe it can save lives when it matters most,” he explained. “We are teaching people disaster preparedness, disaster psychology, fire safety and suppression, emergency medical skills and light-duty search and rescue.”
Herring said they will schedule training programs as soon as enough individuals signed up. Individuals ages 18 and up who are interested can find an application at Chesterfield.gov/CERT.
These are skills that could be used beyond the pandemic.
“They learn those disaster skills so in that period of time if a major storm comes by or during a pandemic they can assist their neighbors, themselves, and their families. That way emergency responders can take those calls for immediate life saving,” Herring stated.