Volunteers Play Critical Role in Improving Global Health Outcomes
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
MedShare exists in order to improve the quality of life of people and our planet by repurposing quality medical supplies and equipment to help improve health outcomes for countless people without access to quality health care. In order to fulfill our mission, three essential ingredients are required – funding, quality supplies & equipment, and volunteers. When these three things come together we are able to create what we fondly call, “MedShare Magic” – making the impossible, possible.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
As is widely the case in the nonprofit realm, MedShare would find it almost impossible to realize its mission without the help of volunteers. They are the not-so-secret ingredient in our ability to create MedShare Magic.
Volunteers are not unique to MedShare. More Americans than ever are volunteering, according to a federal study released by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The 2018 Volunteering in America report found that 77.34 million adults volunteered through an organization. Altogether, Americans volunteered nearly 6.9 billion hours worth an estimated $167 billion in economic value in 2017, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour. Many of MedShare’s volunteers show up every year to support our mission, including by serving as board and regional council members.
People often hear me refer to our volunteers as the “heartbeat” of our organization. Without them, we simply could not do the things that we do to improve health outcomes for marginalized communities around the world. MedShare is very fortunate to benefit from the service of over 20,000 volunteers a year across three geographical regions – Greater Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area and the New York metropolitan area. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic and the requirement for social distancing, 16,000 volunteers gave their time to MedShare this past year.
The question I am most often asked regarding our volunteers is, “How do you attract so many volunteers and keep them engaged and coming back year after the year?” We have found that the key is attracting the right volunteers and providing a meaningful and fulfilling experience. We understand that a successful volunteer experience inspires a sense of community and togetherness, while also being rewarding for the individual.
A meaningful volunteer experience requires concise directions, clear expectations, and great coaching. While volunteers often show up for causes that are meaningful to them, they must feel that they are really making a difference.
With this in mind, all MedShare volunteers are warmly welcomed and carefully guided through our product sorting process. We ensure they understand that they are appreciated and an integral part of our mission. All volunteers are provided with a tour and overview of the medical supply sorting process and safety protocols. Our highly trained volunteer management team also shares impact stories so that volunteers understand the difference that they are making in the lives of others. As an added benefit, volunteering at MedShare is also a great opportunity to learn about global health and social and economic inequalities.
Many corporations, civic groups, educational institutions and faith-based organizations provide volunteers to MedShare. We strive to recognize and utilize the unique talents of the individuals who volunteer with us. We appreciate the contributions of our volunteers, thank each individual every time they serve, and formally recognize our volunteers each year.
Volunteers tell us that they are changed as a result of their experience with us, but we are the ones who are changed as a result of their selfless acts of kindness and gift of service to us. Here are some examples of the feedback we have received from volunteers:
“When I pack a box of medical supplies, for those few precious moments I feel like I’m reaching out across the globe and helping improve the health care and well-being of some lovely, well-deserving person. It is a wonderful feeling. I am grateful that MedShare gives me the opportunity to help others.”
“It makes me feel good to know I am helping people all over the world.”
“After three hours of sorting or boxing medical supplies I know I have made a difference for the well-being of someone in the world.”
Although we have reduced the number of volunteers to ensure proper social-distancing in light of Covid-19, we continue to benefit from the generosity and contributions of our volunteers. Our heart is beating a little slower, but I look forward to the day that we reopen to all volunteers who want to share in the gift of service and help us create more “MedShare Magic.”
How You Can Help?
Please consider volunteering at your favorite charity or nonprofit organization. The upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 18, 2021, is considered a National Day of Service and a great time to start. MedShare hosts volunteer sessions twice daily on Tuesday through Saturday each week.
Our volunteer management teams at all three MedShare locations are ready to help you or your volunteer group set up a great session of sorting medical supplies while maintaining strict Covid-19 protocols. Please check our website for the most current information on group sizes and hours of operation. To get started scheduling your session, visit http://www.medshare.org/volunteer.
Southeast Warehouse and Distribution Center
3240 Clifton Springs Road Decatur, GA 30034 USA
Western Region Warehouse & Distribution Center
2937 Alvarado Street San Leandro, CA 94577 USA
Northeast Region Volunteer and Collection Center
701 Penhorn Avenue, Unit #3
P.O. Box 2075 Secaucus, NJ 07096 USA