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‘Tis the Season to Respond

December 16, 2013

Georgia saw a new wave of enthusiasm and a new way of thinking about volunteering this year with the creation of Georgia Responds, the organization representing the state’s health and medical volunteer programs (www.GeorgiaResponds.org). Department of Public Health Volunteer Program Director LaKieva Williams would like to see the program continue to ride that wave into 2014.

“The more volunteers we have, the better prepared we are,” Williams said.

Georgia Responds was established to provide an easy way to connect volunteer health care professionals to the people and projects that need them the most. The program was created early in 2013, uniting different volunteer health care programs, such as SERVGA and the Medical Reserve Corps, making it easier for prospective volunteers to respond in times of disaster and in times of clear community need. Collectively these volunteers played a valuable role in meeting the health needs of residents throughout the state, and now they are doing so more cooperatively.

“What was once a great resource that no one really knew about is now on their radars. I can see the energy. I can see the involvement,” said Williams.

That involvement and energy is connected to those involved in the program and those whose lives are made better by the volunteer efforts. Williams is hoping that health care providers will consider giving their time to Georgia Responds as a part of the holiday season of giving.

“This is the giving season, but you should give 365 days a year. And if you’re very busy, and only can give 20, that’s helpful too,” she said. “I think that the importance of Georgia Responds is that you can volunteer on your schedule.”

It may be a statewide program, but Williams said she see the biggest impact on the local level, where volunteers are often needed the most. She makes numerous visits to sites throughout the state, educating a diverse audience on the program. The goal is to let everyone know about the volunteer resources that are available and to help grow the program by increasing the number of pre-registered volunteers.

That’s part of Williams’ goal she cited when asked about her expectations for 2014.

“More visibility, more volunteers, more volunteers, more volunteers,” she said.

To learn more about Georgia Responds or sign up to become a part of the volunteer effort, log on to www.GeorgiaResponds.org.