Over the past two years, more than 5,000 people have volunteered to help the state government quell the pandemic through a program called Maine Responds. Leading the contingent of volunteers is Sadie Faucher, who came to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on January 4, 2021, at the height of the pandemic. It was his first job in public health.

Since then, she has helped increase the number of volunteers by 57%, put them through a thorough vetting process, trained over 1,400 volunteers and ensured they were helping with contact tracing, testing patients for COVID-19, vaccinating the public and providing psychological services. care. Volunteers logged 40,840 hours during the pandemic, representing a total monetary value of approximately $1.5 million.

This spring, she won the Rising Star Award from the Maine Public Health Association for her leadership in rallying these volunteers.

The following interview has been condensed and edited.

Erin Rhoda, Bangor Daily News: How did you become the Volunteer Management Coordinator at the Maine CDC?

Sadie Faucher: I come with 10 years of direct experience in policy, advocacy and volunteer management. I had just come out of the election, making sure our elections in Maine were safe, secure, and accessible, and making sure there were enough tellers at every polling place in the state in 2020. C was my job. I knew I really wanted to continue making an impact in Maine. I saw a job posting online for this position. I didn’t even know my position existed, which I currently hold, and I applied. It has been the most rewarding and best career change I have ever made.

We like to say that working one year in the pandemic is equivalent to working four years. It was really great to come in, I think for me, with a new face, because I had this renewed energy to really allow us to move forward with the second phase of vaccination during the pandemic.

NDB: You have deployed about 13% of the Maine responds volunteers. What are some of the most important roles these volunteers have played in the pandemic response?

mowing: I think some of the biggest and most crucial roles have been the vaccination effort. We had some volunteers who gave the equivalent of a year of full-time work to vaccinate other Mainers.

We had volunteers who stepped up, I think in the most remarkable way, to support long-term care facilities when there was a shortage of staff during an outbreak. The few people who have stepped up to do this, it’s such crucial work. So too have our volunteers stepped up their testing initiatives. That’s a tough question if you’re asking people to go to an environment where they’re most likely going to interact with COVID-positive people, but you don’t know. There are more risks than that, but people are mobilizing.

NDB: Can you share specific stories of volunteers who have given a lot of themselves?

mowing: I think there is a great story from one of our volunteers. This person they decided to step in to help with our mobile vaccination effort across the state. We were settled in Fryeburg. They were from the Midcoast area. I just remember one staff member asking, “Why did you come all the way to Fryeburg in western Maine?” The big reason was that she liked the fact that she could make it a vacation because she brought Airstream to her. She ended up traveling to other stops, including all the way to Madawaska to make it a trip to get out, enjoy nature but also give back to the community.

I also think back to my volunteers who came whenever I asked or every day. … They knew their roles. The growth that has occurred has been tremendous. To see them, you have to train them on something and then train the people themselves, to see that progression up the training ladder, that’s exactly what you want to see in volunteer management. Our volunteers continued to show up every day.

I had a volunteer who traveled to several locations across the state to help me. They lived in Down East, Maine. This included asking them to drive to Calais to get there at 7 a.m. and sit in a very cold community center – many of us were taught to wear long johns – to vaccinate children and adults. of this community. This volunteer also supported vaccinations to help support migrant farm workers and wreath workers in Washington County as well.

NDB: Volunteers have done a lot and they have played a vital role in the response. Should we rely on volunteers? Why are volunteers part of it in the first place?

mowing: One problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic is the need for medical professionals in Maine. It is therefore crucial to rely on volunteers. These volunteers are usually retired, so they come with years of experience in their field.

Volunteers can provide enough support to a workforce to allow full-time staff to focus on these more critical needs, whether in ICU or elsewhere. These volunteers can help with general bed sitting, or help be a host or screener in your hospital during the height of COVID. It really allows for that extra surge capability when needed. That’s what these volunteers are trained for, that extra support.

NDB: Do you still need volunteers to register, and what are the needs today compared to a year ago?

mowing: We still definitely need volunteers. I think the most important thing is that… people like me think, “Oh, I can’t sign up for this because I don’t have a medical license.” This is not the case. We need all facets of the human in our communities to intensify. You don’t commit by saying, “I’ll be there at 10 o’clock”. All you do is enter a database that allows you to be pre-accredited. That way, when the time comes, you’ll hear about that need and have the opportunity to raise your hand and say, “I’d like to address that.”

NDB: Personally, how has the pandemic changed you?

mowing: It has changed my life considerably. … Before confinement, in February 2020, I contracted mono. I remember it very well because when I went to the hospital they thought I had COVID. I do not have. I had a mono. I like to say that I was confined longer than anyone because I was bedridden from February 2020 until the end of March or so. It had a significant impact on my immune system to the point where I was very sick. My mom had to fly to take care of me from Florida. She stayed with me to treat me, then during that time she got stuck in Maine because of the lockdown.

What has changed is that we have realized that family value has really come back. We decided to start living together again and to consider rebuilding this family home. I wouldn’t be able to do the work that I do, including those long hours or those 80-hour weeks, without the support of my family. Because it required them to step in, whether it was making sure there was some kind of healthy meal for dinner before I got home at 8 or 9, or helping to make my laundry. These little things have improved my quality of life.

I feel like, oddly enough, I’ve had this huge growth in my personal life during this pandemic and just time to reflect and really understand what values ​​I hold dear and what values ​​I don’t. It takes these life-altering events for this to really happen, and I know I’m not the only person who’s taken stock of his life. I am extremely privileged to not have had anyone close to me who contracts COVID.

NDB: Were you able to rebuild this family home?

mowing: Yes. Were very happy. We have a beautiful house all together now – with our two separate areas of the house, an in-laws suite, as you would say. I was very lucky that we were able to find, even in this housing market, a house that corresponded to everything we needed. Now, for example, I switch from this busy job, when I work from home, I take a lunch break and go to check on my chickens. Because I have chickens now. It allows me to have those few mental health breaks during the day where I physically disengage from my work.

That was one of the biggest changes, I would say. I take care of myself more because I realize that I can’t help others and I can’t manage volunteers as effectively as possible if I don’t take care of myself first. Which is a hard thing to do when you’re someone who just wants to give your all to your community.

NDB: How will things change next? What’s on the horizon for Maine regarding COVID-19?

mowing: I am by no means a medical professional or an epidemiologist, but I think we will follow the continuous ebbs and flows. … It may well become a part of life for the future. We always have to make sure we have those tight-fitting masks nearby, and when new boosters come out, everyone gets them on a regular basis. I think it’s important to always have access to safe, secure and accurate testing. Make sure you have those stocks in place, as well as making a plan if you have COVID, to get the drug, Paxlovid, for example, to make sure you’re able to recover faster and not have such a serious disease of COVID .

I think it’s the landscape across the country — and not just across the country but across the world. We live in a global society, and we’ve seen it with everything. We just need to look at things differently and be safe not only for ourselves, but also for our community members around us.