Springfield’s Give 5 retiree volunteer program helping in vaccination effort

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 6:48 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -Give 5 is a program run by the United Way of the Ozarks that helps area retirees find charitable and civic organizations that need volunteers.

Now some of that group’s retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists are also stepping up to give shots at COVID-19 vaccination events.

”When we came up with the Give 5 program we didn’t anticipate a pandemic,” said Greg Burris, the program’s founder and President/CEO of the United Way of the Ozarks. “But oh my gosh, what an opportunity and we couldn’t be more pleased to be playing that role in the community.”

Like the recent mass vaccination at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, there is a need for health care professionals to help administer the shots. And when the call went out for help, about 25 retired nurses, doctors and other clinicians from the GIVE 5 program have so far volunteered for duty at various clinics in the fight against COVID-19

“It’s I think in the blood of health care workers to want to help,” Burris pointed out.

Started in 2018, the GIVE 5 program has gained national attention for helping retirees find a cause they care about to volunteer and serve. It’s a way for them to remain engaged rather than sitting on the couch.

“That sabbatical will last for a few months maybe and then they’re bored,” said Dr. Jim Blaine of the frequent scenario that finds retirees looking for something to fill the void soon after they step away from their jobs.

Blaine is one of the Give 5 doctors who’s helping give vaccinations and said his fellow GIVE 5 health care workers are enjoying being back on the front lines.

“You see people you haven’t seen for years,” he said. “It’s almost like a barbershop, ‘ya know, because there’s nothing complicated about giving shots when you’ve been giving them for 40 years. And so everyone is happy to be giving the vaccine and they’re very happy to be getting it. It’s almost like party.”

“This is exactly what we wanted Give 5 to become,” Burris added. “The connector between what people want to do in their community and what really feeds their heart.”

According to a news release the Jordan Valley Community Health Center, (JVCHC) the Greene County Medical Society and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department (SGCHD) are working together to fill in the gaps where vaccinations are needed. As additional vaccine becomes available, they are conducting mass vaccination clinics and are focused on outreach to harder-to-reach populations. Thanks to Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, a mobile vaccination unit called Greene County CARES is also being brought online.

The Give 5 workers will be a part of that mobile truck.

“I think our niche will be helping people of different ethnicities or people that are disadvantaged as far as income,” Blaine said. “So we plan on taking that just anywhere it needs to go.”

Considering how urgently the vaccination process needs to be sped up, what Give 5 is giving “is incredibly important,” according to Blaine. “You need to get out and help other people and it actually helps you more than it helps them.”

“This is one of those deals where I think the Ozarks can be proud of the fact that we’ve got our retirees who are actively engaged in the community and making a real difference,” Burris said. “And in this case, saving lives.”

The next Give 5 classes are in April and will be conducted virtually. The volunteer work can also be done virtually or in-person.

According to Burris more than 200 people have graduated from the Springfield-Greene County Give 5 program and are now providing, on average, more than 18 volunteer hours per month. Based on the most recent alumni survey, more than a year after graduating, 79% of Give 5 graduates are still serving their communities through volunteerism and civic engagement. A September 2020 virtual class is now safely volunteering with 13 nonprofits, assisting with pandemic response and shoring up service continuity. Nonprofits offer a variety of safe opportunities that are both virtual and in person, as well as volunteer-from-home opportunities.

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