OWENSBORO, Ky. — For every doctor, nurse and rescuer helping out at a major illness outbreak or natural disaster, there are a half-dozen volunteers doing heavy lifting to make sure that everyone gets the assistance they need.
The Medical Reserve Corps was formed shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, in response to a call from President George Bush for additional help in case of disasters and emergencies. The corps, run under the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, has about 200 volunteers locally and specializes in providing volunteers with both medical and nonmedical backgrounds to provide assistance in times of need.
“We want to utilize and organize our volunteers so that if an event happens in the community, we would come together to support local health and law enforcement to respond to the emergency,” said Linda O’Leary, the MRC coordinator at the Green River District Health Department in Owensboro, Kty.
Though it would seem that medical volunteers would be the greatest need, it turns out that the opposite is true. Nonmedical volunteers are needed to handle paperwork, crowd control, counseling and other administrative jobs that keep disaster relief flowing smoothly.
“We really need a lot of volunteers, medical and nonmedical. In fact, we probably need more nonmedical. We need five to six nonmedical volunteers with one medical,” O’Leary said. “They are an absolute must.”
Though the MRC is relatively new, they have 731 units throughout the country with more than 150,000 volunteers. By having these volunteers ready, disaster response can run more smoothly, since these volunteers are trained in multiple fields and ready to go.
“You have to have the organization, the administration in place,” O’Leary said. “It’s a whole conglomerate of different areas that come together in the case of an event.”
The corps also places a lot of emphasis on helping local residents educate and prepare for potential disasters. The goal is not to frighten people but rather to help them help themselves.
“We want to contain that panic. We don’t want to create chaos. We want to assist,” O’Leary said. “We want to look out for the community.”
Marilu Goodsell, a registered nurse for 40 years before she retired, is one of the medical volunteers with the MRC and said so far, much of their work has been in training and stockpiling needed supplies throughout the Green River District Health Department’s coverage area that includes Webster, Union, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio and Daviess counties. She also said so far, volunteers are in good supply, though more are always both needed and welcome.
“The MRC is people who are retired and don’t have jobs so they can fill in the places where people are working and couldn’t leave their jobs to do it,” Goodsell said. “We have a good turnout, a lot of people that signed up. Every time we have a meeting, there’s more and more people showing up, more new faces.”
Goodsell said it’s important for people to learn about the MRC and know that they can do something to help.
Meanwhile, O’Leary said that they’ve been working hard to be ready for whatever happens and to help the community be ready, too.
*** To Learn More ***For more information on the Medical Reserve Corps with the Green River District Health Department, including how to join, contact Linda O’Leary, coordinator with the MRC at the Green River District Health Department, at 852-5485.