Jessika Kennedy joined the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps when she was 20 years old, first through an emergency medical training course. The now 34-year-old became more and more active in the volunteer program, but in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shook the medical community at its core.
Jessika spent most of her pandemic time volunteering and answering OKMRC telephones to respond to the community’s public health and COVID-19 questions. Prior to the pandemic, Jessika received basic life support training and gained experience in the field of teaching and education.
“In the beginning, there was so much fear. We wanted to be the calm in the middle of our community’s storm,” Jessika said. “From usually around 7:15 a.m. in the morning to sometimes 6 p.m. in the evening, we’d be working or getting prepared for the next day.”
Jessika’s COVID-19 response group at OKMRC opened during the very beginning of March 2020. She helped lead the team’s phone bank, which was created for people to call in, ask questions, gain reassurance on vaccinations or even vent their frustrations or anger, according to Jessika.
“Giving back to your community makes you feel a part of your community, and when you realize that you’re not the most important person in the world, it’s healthy to see that you’re a part of something bigger and it’s a blessing,” Jessika said.
“We all went through our own personal crises during COVID-19, but whenever you pause and say ‘wait a second, I can give back,’ then we all benefit,” she added.
The Medical Reserve Corps is a nation-wide network of more than 200,000 volunteers who are organized at the local level to improve the health and safety of their communities. Jessika is among the Oklahoma corps network in Tulsa — which traditionally helps in community emergency response, flu vaccinations and more — and she’s given more than 1,600 hours to the volunteer organization.
From the time Jessika was young, she’d always volunteered. She’d volunteer with her relatives at Toys for Tots and at local charities during the holidays. Jessika’s family was made up of public servants, military members, fire fighters, teachers and police officers, and became adamant about giving back to the community and being a driving force for good. Now, Jessika wants to continue their legacy.
“I was surprised during a time of crisis, the majority of people want to find a way to give back, so being able to help people understand how many different ways there are within our own community to help with was super important to me,” Jessika said.
Jessika not only grew her volunteerism during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also her leadership skills. Jessika became the unit leader of the phone bank because of her calm demeanor and confidence in her ability to correct COVID-19 misinformation. She also learned from the medical staff around her and grew to anticipate the needs of her team and her volunteers.
Although she’s gotten used to service through the phones, Jessika’s favorite volunteerism opportunities are the smaller and more local events in her community. Through her volunteerism at events around the city, Jessika’s presence throughout Tulsa, Oklahoma is consistently felt and always appreciated.
“If you find little ways to give back, even every other month, those little things are what our community needs too and we can come out of the pandemic stronger than we were before,” Jessika said.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Jessika? Find local volunteer opportunities.