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Cultivating Community: Clinics Volunteers – Bettering Themselves & Marin

By May 16, 2022May 17th, 2022No Comments

Volunteer Susan Clark (L) is all smiles with Health Hub Supervisor Rosalinda Camacho at the San Rafael Health Hub.

There are many reasons why people volunteer. One reason why is consistent: people are fulfilled by helping others. The sentiment is key to Marin Community Clinics’ legacy and success. After all, our organization was founded by a group of volunteer physicians and nurses in 1972. They gave their time and talent because they wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of others. 

Today, our expert doctors and nurses are paid employees who have devoted themselves and their careers to caring for the most vulnerable in our community. Our current volunteers lift up the community in other ways.

The Health Hubs – A Unique Beacon of Community 

Part walk-up/drive-up food pantry; part community safe space and trusted information center where the Clinics raise awareness about important public health and safety initiatives – the Health Hubs are entirely unique. Over the past two years, the Hubs have added COVID-19 related services, such as hosting vaccine and testing clinics, distributing free masks and at-home rapid test kits. 

The Health Hubs are more than a food assistance program; it’s a place where individuals come together to give back to our community. Our participants and patients feel safe coming to the Hubs for guidance.” 

– Health Hubs Supervisor Rosalinda Camacho

At the Hubs, Supervisor Rosalinda Camacho and her team educate the community about Clinics services, as well as a multitude of available social services. “The Hubs are where we bridge the relationship between our community and partner organizations,” Camacho says. “The volunteers come because they see the need and the work that we’re doing – connecting people to resources. They want to be a part of that.

The events happen twice a week (at our San Rafael Clinic on Wednesdays and Novato Clinic on Thursdays). Each Hub averages about 300 to 400 attendees, and significantly more community members have shown up during peak COVID surges. 

About 25-30 volunteers are needed at each Hub to help with set-up, distribution, and break-down. They greet people, prepare bags of food, hand out supplies, and safely direct traffic. The positive energy at the Hubs is palpable, and the volunteers have fun.  

Karla Valdez has volunteered at the Health Hubs for 6 years. She’s inspired by the people and the face-to-face social interactions. “I meet so many families from different races and backgrounds,” says Valdez,  “from young children to seniors – they all appreciate what we do – it’s uplifting.” 

Other volunteers, including Susan Clark, have taken notice of how welcoming the events are. “The Health Hubs show how much the Clinics embrace the community they serve,” explains Clark. “It’s a place where meaningful conversations about health happen. By volunteering I see first-hand the positivity and the possibilities that emerge.

The Book Angels

While volunteers are encouraged to get involved with the Health Hubs by signing up online, years ago, Judie Shaw (aka “the book lady”) took a different approach.

Shaw walked into the Novato Clinic when it first opened and asked to help out in any way possible. She was introduced to Tracey Hessel, MD  (current Associate Medical Director of Pediatrics). Dr. Hessel thought it would be great if her young patients could each receive an age-appropriate book to help encourage reading and a healthy family dynamic. Shaw was excited about the idea and soon launched a “book nook” within the clinic.

The first day I was handing out books at the clinic, a little girl asked if it was hers to keep,” says Shaw, “she was so excited to have a book of her own!” Shaw was inspired and leaned into the program, recruiting a number of volunteers over the years to help contribute to the program (including current volunteers Barbara Roddie and Susan Hamstra). She estimates that with the help of her fellow “book angels” about 1,000 books a year are gifted to young patients!