By Anne Atwell
For Vashon Community Care
Vashon Heritage Museum (VHM) and Vashon Community Care (VCC) are teaming up to produce “Lives Well Lived,” a new series of talks aimed at exploring current events through the eyes of islanders who are making a difference both on Vashon and the world.
The work of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is the focus of “The Vashon Model: A Community-based Response to COVID,” the first in the series of talks at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 8, on Zoom.
Well-known island writer and radio personality Susan McCabe will moderate the discussion between doctors James Bristow, Ina Opplinger, Clayton Olney and Jinna Risdal, all of whom were key players in Vashon’s nationally recognized response to the COVID pandemic.
The Vashon MRC was founded in 2002 in response to the 9-11 attacks and functioned until 2008. After several years of inaction, the organization was restructured and strengthened in 2018 under the leadership of Opplinger and Osborne. When COVID began to spread in early 2020, Bristow was compelled to begin a testing site on the island in reaction to his wife not being able to get a test when she thought she had contracted the virus.
One year later, Vashon has the lowest spread of COVID-19 in all of King County. During this past year, there have been a total of 108 COVID cases on Vashon (less than .01%) and three deaths (.0025%) out of a population of nearly 12,000, and Vashon has high percentages of both Vashon residents 65+ and all Vashon residents 16+ who have been vaccinated as of the middle of March 2021.
Jim Bristow and Clayton Olney are currently the co-coordinators of the MRC — a group of doctors with 100 combined years of expertise and experience in internal medicine, pediatrics, infectious disease, immunology and molecular diagnostics.
“A huge part of Vashon’s success at keeping the rate of infection down was the community coming together to help us do all the things that keep us safe,” said Bristow. “The infrastructure to start the testing so quickly was already in place with the MRC and supported by a galvanized VashonBePrepared. Another critical element was the mental health support. But we couldn’t have done any of this if islanders hadn’t stepped up to volunteer countless hours of their time and if the community hadn’t listened to what we and public health officials were saying.”
“Vashon Community Care is proud to highlight the story of the Vashon MRC’s remarkable response to the COVID pandemic as our first “Lives Well Lived” because it honors the incredible dedication and perseverance of an enormously accomplished group of leaders who had the support of Vashon’s tight-knit and resourceful community,” says Wendy Kleppe, Executive Director of Vashon Community Care.
Elsa Croonquist, Executive Director of Vashon Heritage Museum, said: “The story of Vashon’s MRC — before, during, and after COVID —is an excellent example of history in the making. An important part of VHM’s mission is to preserve Vashon history with examples of island residents whose passions and knowledge impact current events.”
To register for the talk on April 8, visit online.
Future “Lives Well Lived” talks will take place in July and October and will be publicized on Vashon Community Care’s and Vashon Heritage Museum’s websites.
“Lives Well Lived” — which was inspired by VCC’s popular Telling Stories series produced almost a decade ago — are part of the monthly Vashon Museum Talks series, presented by Vashon Heritage Museum.