Allies in Health: Get to Know the NJ COVID-19 Service Corps
One year since its inception, the New Jersey COVID-19 Service Corps’ 41 members are providing support to local nonprofits, service providers, clinical settings, housing agencies and schools to expand their reach in addressing vulnerable communities’ needs amid the pandemic. Comprising undergraduate allied health students and recent graduates of public health, social work, nursing and counseling programs, the Corps is an initiative of the Center for Community Engagement at Montclair State University, the NJ Commission on National and Community Service, The College of New Jersey, Rutgers University–Camden, state entities, community-based organizations and the AmeriCorps national program. In addition to expanding critical services during the pandemic and supporting the education of professionals in these fields through paid training and education awards, the Corps is developing a cadre of future health leaders dedicated to service in the state.
Katharine Culp is a member. Having earned her Master of Social Work degree in 2018, she joined the New Jersey COVID-19 Service Corps in 2021 and currently serves as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Montclair State University Center for Community Engagement. In her role, she provides resources to volunteers at Montclair State to support their work in the community.
“AmeriCorps has allowed me to provide information about community locations accepting donations of clothes, jackets, books, toys, art supplies and more to the team,” she said. “My work also includes connecting volunteers who are interested in serving virtually with community-based organizations’ remote opportunities.”
She has met a number of peers through the Corps, including students majoring in Pre-Medical, Pre-Law, and Environmental Science and Management. Katharine has also networked with community partners who are fellow social workers and AmeriCorps members.
“By participating in this work, I’ve built relationships with a number of community partners such as the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, CUMAC, the American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey, and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. We have learned from our partners that in the face of the pandemic, many of them have struggled to meet the increased need for their programs and services. In addition, their organizations are facing staffing shortages while trying to continue their work.
To strengthen our nonprofit partners’ capacity, our volunteers have provided logistical support for local blood drives, revitalized Brookdale Park and other green spaces and prepared meals for delivery to community members who are experiencing food insecurity,” Katharine explained.
While the focus of this initiative is to improve health for everyone over the long-term, the Corps members are also active in short-term efforts. As an example, Katharine and I led our team in participating in Montclair State University’s annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service by serving at Toni’s Kitchen food ministry, the Father English Food Pantry in Paterson, Pillar Care Continuum and other community partners. The Corps members packed blankets, hygiene kits and food for distribution to those with the greatest needs, including children and individuals experiencing homelessness. Read more about the 2022 MLK Day of Service events at Montclair State University here. The New Jersey COVID-19 Service Corps is advancing health equity by building a network of public health leaders representative of the communities in which they serve, making available supports more readily accessible to those who need them the most and bringing the allied health fields together for the greater public good. Connect with our project director and co-director to learn more about our current phase of work and to partner with us.