The Union County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has received a 2013 Unity Achievement Award in recognition of its extraordinary efforts to provide disaster relief during and after Superstorm Sandy. The Unity Award is a program of the Union County Human Relations Commission, aimed at honoring outstanding role models for community service.
Union County MRC is a volunteer organization of health professionals, students and members of the general public, who are trained to support first responders with health-related assistance during emergencies.
“During a time of great stress for Union County residents, MRC volunteers went the extra mile. Many of them took time away from their families and jobs to volunteer, and some went straight from their jobs to their volunteer assignments without a break for days on end,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter.
When Superstorm Sandy hit Union County in force last year on Monday, October 29, MRC volunteers had already worked over the weekend to prepare the Union County Regional Evacuation Center in Cranford with cots, blankets, water and other supplies.
By Sunday evening, MRC volunteers were registering families who were planning to evacuate, and ensuring that those with special needs were accommodated.
MRC volunteers continued to staff the shelter throughout the storm and its two-week aftermath, during which time a major nor’easter also struck the area. The MRC efforts were coordinated with Cranford personnel and officials, along with numerous other volunteers. The Salvation Army provided more than 3,400 meals during the aftermath, and an American Red Cross Response Team also arrived after the nor’easter.
As a result of this cooperative effort, the Evacuation Center provided safe, warm shelter for hundreds of Union County residents ranging in age from infancy to 99 years old.
“A major relief effort requires the work of many hands, and many kinds of skills played a critical role in helping Union County residents make it through this disaster together,” said Carter. “On behalf of the Freeholder Board, I’d like to express our gratitude to all who have served in MRC.”
MRC is part of the national Citizen Corps program aimed at training volunteers to assist first responders during emergencies. Union County MRC is coordinated by Ella Shaykevich, Advanced Practice Public Health Nurse for the Union County Office of Health Management.
In addition to her role in disaster response including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Shaykevich has participated in numerous disaster training scenarios such as TOPOFF III in 2005, a massive multinational homeland security exercise that included Union County as a focal point.
Ms. Shaykevich has been honored by her professional peers with the New Jersey Public Health Nurse of the Year award in recognition of her work in public health.
Professional experience in health care is not required to join MRC. Along with disaster relief, MRC volunteers provide ongoing community services, like promoting emergency preparedness at health fairs, performing blood pressure screenings at community events, and running flu clinics.