Residents of Crawford County are no strangers to the spirit of volunteerism, and the fourth week of April celebrates that spirit and encourages it in others.
National Volunteer Week, April 21-27, is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It's about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, citizens have the fortitude to meet challenges and accomplish goals.
Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week focuses national attention on the impact and power of volunteerism and service as an integral aspect of our civic leadership. The week draws the support and endorsement of the president and Congress, governors, mayors and municipal leaders, as well as corporate and community groups across the country.
Crawford County offers several ways for people to volunteer their time and resources through organized groups, impromptu events or long-term service.
Randy Tedford, who works for both the Crawford County Health Department and Robinson Fire Department, spends a good deal of time working with and organizing volunteers as well as volunteering his own time.
One group Tedford would like to see more people involved in is the Medical Reserve Corps. MRC units are a community-based way to organize and mobilize volunteers to prepare for and respond to emergencies, and promote healthy living throughout the year. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public-health resources.
Tedford explained that MRC volunteers include medical and public health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, and epidemiologists. They also include many non-medical personnel who can fulfill key support positions as interpreters, chaplains, office workers, legal advisers, and others. Tedford said there are volunteer jobs for those who can help with record keeping, or who can work with special-needs people or the elderly.
The program falls under the U.S. Surgeon General's office but is organized locally.
Tedford said Crawford County currently has around 20 active MRC members that include registered nurses, educators and several non-medical personnel. They work in conjunction with other organizations like the Emergency Management Agency, health department or with event organizers where health risks or safety concerns may occur.
Tedford said by being an organized group with credentials, MRC volunteers can serve in many capacities. Recently they served at the Boston Marathon, and passed out water and helped in other ways at the Chicago Marathon. Locally, they helped with H1N1 vaccinations, and can be called upon by other activities and organizations like the American Red Cross.
Tedford explained that many organizations like the health department do not perform emergency functions, but see that the functions, like providing safe drinking water or shelter, are performed, using groups like the MRC to set up cots or pass out water.
Ideally, Tedford said he would like to see recently retired doctors and nurses volunteer, as well as anyone who would be able to serve during regular daytime hours.
Some training is involved, and a new area in which Tedford said MRC personnel are being trained in is damage assessment. Individuals who completed the CERT training would be ideal for the program, and Tedford said he would be interested in talking with anyone who completed that program.
Tedford said he would like to see the organization grow, and understands the challenge of striking a balance between keeping active and being overwhelmed.
To learn more about the MRC check it out online, or contact Tedford at the Crawford County Health Department.