Tuesday, April 17, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Honoring volunteers

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
                                          — Martin Luther King Jr.

National volunteer week is being observed this week and we wish to thank all our local volunteers for their time and effort and the blood, sweat and tears they sometimes put into their communities.

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville; St. Vincent North in Sherwood; local schools in Cabot, Jacksonville, Lonoke and Beebe, senior centers, chambers of commerce, the Boys and Girls Club, and food banks, such as Fishnet Missions and the Care Channel all depend on their altruistic volunteers.

According to research, volunteering has positive benefits for both the organization and for the volunteer, a win-win situation some would say.

The state health department has sent a thank you to its volunteers who support public health efforts in disasters and otherwise:

The Arkansas Department of Health thanks the many volunteers who support public health in our state during National Volunteer Week, April 15-21. Over the past year our volunteers have assisted in the Joplin tornado response, participated in health fairs and mass flu clinics, partnered with us during various 5K runs, hosted teddy bear clinics, had booths at preparedness fairs and participated in emergency preparedness exercises. Without volunteers, many of these activities would not have taken place.

Volunteers serve in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The MRC program, established in 2002, is a system that identifies, trains, and organizes medical and public health professionals, as well as lay volunteers to supplement and support on-going emergency response systems and personnel. MRCs are made up of people who volunteer in order to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies as well as promote healthy living in their communities.

Arkansas is plagued by natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods and ice storms. MRCs have provided valuable support to communities during these events. The Arkansas Department of Health coordinates this effort and is available to provide guidance on the establishment of teams, tools, and training to MRC teams.

MRCs are made up of both medical and non-medical individuals. These can include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, social workers, EMT’s, and lay individuals who have a desire to serve their community.

A similar program, AR SERV, administered by the Arkansas Department of Health’s Preparedness and Response Branch, works to recruit, train, manage, and deploy volunteers (medical and non-medical) to assist during emergencies and day-to-day activities by providing additional staff to meet health and medical needs.

Volunteers participate in Hometown Health Improvement Coalitions in every county. HHI brings together a wide range of people and organizations including consumers, business leaders, health care providers, elected officials, religious leaders, and educators to identify community health problems and develop and implement ways to solve them.

With much gratitude we say, “thank you” for your continued support of the Arkansas Public Health Volunteer Programs.