Sharon White-Lewis says she was always the kind of person who “ran into the fire”. In March 2020, that meant calling the state nursing department to ask how they could help. The board referred them to the Medical Reserve Corps of Greater Kansas City.
White-Lewis is the Dean of Nursing at Rasmussen University in Overland Park. The Medical Reserve Corps needed help and quickly promoted her to the division chief, a volunteer position overseeing the organization’s volunteer deployment, training, and budget for the nine-county area in which it operates.
A year ago only about 15 of the group’s 60 volunteers were actively helping. Now, she says, the organization has 1,200 volunteers – and it’s still growing.
“We had a mass vaccination at Bartle Hall in the great ballroom and we did 823. I think if we had more volunteers we could have vaccinated about 2,000 that day,” White-Lewis says in a loud, loud of- business Kmart in Kansas City, Kansas.
However, this number also depends on the availability of the vaccine.
Bob Bennett is the director of vaccine operations for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. He oversees the old Kmart lot on Stave Avenue, not far from the Legends Outlet Mall.
Bennett says his group has administered approximately 26,000 doses at two locations, old Kmart and a Best Buy on Parallel Parkway, since December. A third location is to be opened shortly, which will further increase capacity.
“I could do 5,000 a day, so 25,000 a week if I had an unlimited vaccine that I don’t have,” says Bennett.
The more medical and non-medical volunteers there are, the better. With more doses available, mass vaccinations can be done frequently across the subway.
The federal government developed the national MRC in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attack, and the local chapter began in 2008. Volunteers can be deployed to help any organization in Kansas City.
White-Lewis says that when the Medical Reserve Corps is unresponsive to a disaster or health crisis, it leads the community’s medical education and preparation for disasters and pandemics.
“We would mimic tornadoes and earthquakes and floods and pandemics and the like and test our processes,” says White-Lewis.
Education and preparation are not taking in nearly as many people as the pandemic has required.
“What is really, really important is that people realize that staying home is really good to protect themselves,” says White-Lewis.
Retired Hallmark employee Sheri Edwards and her husband signed up about a month ago. She says, “I think we all want to get back to normal. So what can I do when I have the time and energy to get back to normal? And that’s it.”
The MRC has many non-medical positions to fill. Edwards gathers information from patients who walk in and “keeps the clipboard going,” she says. Others sit with people in the recreation area after the shot, make phone calls and help with the flow of traffic inside and outside.
According to White-Lewis, all of these roles are as important as the health care professionals who actually deliver the vaccines. She needs more people of all skills and professional backgrounds, but she also says getting doctors and nurses to volunteer now can be a little tricky.
She says that not only are some agencies still in high demand in their workplaces, but they will pay up to $ 100 an hour for travel nursing. The Medical Reserve Corps urges people to work from the goodness of their heart.
Retired plastic surgeon Regina Nouhan is happy to do that.
Nouhan, who serves on KCUR’s Community Advisory Board, says volunteering is her way of giving back to your community.
“Such is our ideal society,” says Nouhan. “The generosity of spirit that I see here is just amazing to me. Having a need that is present in our society and having people answer the call as quickly as possible is the most impressive and inspiring thing to me. “