Increasing Health Equity in Hunterdon
By Bonnie Duncan, CEO, United Way of Hunterdon County
In 2014 United Way of Hunterdon County took a giant step toward realizing its vision of bringing neighbors together to build a more caring community. We found the perfect location to build a Community Volunteer Center and engaged our volunteers in helping to make it a reality. Our tag line during the “Big Build” was – Doing Good in the Neighborhood.
The Community Volunteer Center is living up to the vision. Over the years, it has become more than a place where things get done. It is a place where things get changed – a place where families come to reinforce a culture of volunteerism, a place where neighbors come to lend a hand to neighbors in need, and a place where the community comes together to make a difference and build itself stronger. Our Community Volunteer Center welcomes over 1,000 volunteers that donate well over 10,000 hours annually.
The Community Volunteer Center is also a place for folks to come together to engage in long term recovery efforts after a community-wide disaster. In preparation for disaster response, UWHC engaged with our partners and formally established our local COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disasters). We attended trainings and drills and prepared to invest the resources required to reach and serve those in our community most vulnerable to disaster.
And then the pandemic was upon us. After responding to meet the financial hardships of our most vulnerable neighbors, we put our disaster preparedness efforts to work to overcome the incredible challenges in getting our marginalized communities vaccinated against COVID-19. By working with the Hunterdon County Department of Health and the Hunterdon Healthcare System, our Community Volunteer Center has become host to pop-up clinics helping the homeless, those at risk of homelessness, victims of domestic violence, and individuals with language, transportation and technology barriers. To-date, we have helped to vaccinate 425 individuals who might not otherwise have been able to access mainstream vaccine sites. Bringing equity to our community matters, and this is community impact at work – fueled by volunteers at a trusted community center of volunteerism.
As we approach another National Volunteer Week and Minority & Multicultural Health month during this pandemic, it is fitting to recognize the role our Community Volunteer Center is playing – and the actions our volunteers and partners are taking - in responding to the needs of our community and bringing health equity to Hunterdon County.