Clinic Workers Range in Age from 15 to 70 with Common Goal of Helping their Communities
AMESBURY — Amesbury Fire Chief Ken Berkenbush and West Newbury health agent Paul Sevigny, on behalf the nine-community Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative, is pleased to be able to highlight some of the hundreds of volunteers who helped make this past weekend’s vaccine clinic a success.
This past weekend, 2,522 people received first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, continuingly a remarkable and efficient trend for residents attending this municipally-driven vaccination effort.
Volunteers Make it Possible
Volunteers spanning in age across seven decades, from high school students to retired nurses, reported to Amesbury High School to take part in the clinic on Saturday and Sunday, March 20-21.
As always, the volunteers were given a variety of roles and some of them were given leadership roles based on their level of experience, expertise and ability.
“Every one of these volunteers has done an incredible job and we are all extremely grateful and appreciative of the work they’ve done,” Chief Berkenbush said. “Everyone from the parking lot greeters to the pharmacy staff prepping vaccines to the crews registering patients, plays a key role in making this clinic as successful as it has been these past few weeks.”
Throughout the course of the weekend, nearly 200 people reported to work at Amesbury High School to put on the clinic, including fire chiefs, dentists, high school students and local residents seeking to pitch in.
“We are all driven by our desire to help our community move past the pandemic, and everyone working at the vaccine clinic feels that, with each person passing through our doors, we are one step closer,” Sevigny said.
Discussing their roles and why they’re taking part in the clinic, here are just a few of the people whose leadership and efforts have been instrumental to the vaccine process throughout the clinic:
Jessica Marks, age 15, Vaccination Distribution Leader
My role: “My role is to help support the staff that are administering the vaccines and making sure that the different vaccine stations are getting the vaccines when they need them.”
Why being here is important to me: “I’m here today because I like helping people and I want to continue doing this field in the future and also because we’re saving lives and it’s extremely exhilarating. I just love being here and everyone around us is just fantastic and happy and energetic. Everyone here is glad to be there and I love that.”
Jessica, and other “runners” at the clinic, deliver vaccine syringes from the pharmacy room to the tables. They wear special vests and other staff are not allowed to disturb them or ask them to perform any other job than the extremely vital task at hand.
David Baker, age 25, Logistics Lead
My role: “I am making sure that all parts of the clinic have the supplies they need for the clinic to be able to function and maintaining and tracking usage and making sure that we’re going to have enough supplies to run the clinic. Anything from gloves, sharps containers, alcohol wipes, band-aids, needles, syringes and even the bags we use to get the vaccine from the pharmacy staff down the hall to the vaccine stations.”
Why being here is important to me: “As a firefighter in West Newbury I’ve seen a lot of the effect of the virus on the community and I really want to see those that want to use the vaccine and have that as a tool to be able to fight the virus be able to get it.”
David makes sure fresh PPE gets to the clinic staff and volunteers.
Lauren Conway, age 27, Pharmacy Manager
My role: “Here we have a bunch of pharmacists and pharmacy techs drawing out the doses to be administered to the patients.”
Why being here is important to me: “This is incredibly important for us because we understand how important it is to get everybody vaccinated. But also, the amount of people that we’re trying to vaccinate each weekend is nearly impossible to put all on the nurses. Each day we’re doing about 1,200 doses. So, it’s really important for pharmacy workers to come in here and draw out these does so that they’re ready to be injected into the patients to help out the nurses.”
“This is amazing. I feel like I’m part of history. It’s historic because we’ve never seen a virus like this and the vaccine came out at a perfect time. It’s definitely awesome to be a part of vaccinating all these people and saving lives.”
Lauren and the other extremely talented pharmacy professionals working the clinic are responsible for the clinic’s extremely efficient rate of vaccine dosage and usage.
Tina LaCourse, age 38, Nurse Manager
My role: “I am helping to support the vaccinators that are here and helping people get registered for their vaccines.”
Why being here is important to me: “We’re vaccinating the community. It’s been a year of contact tracing and we’re working to get everybody back to where they want to be. Back in school. Back to work. Looking forward to the summer. It’s been really great to be a part of.”
Tina and others in her role act in a role not altogether dissimilar to a nurse manager in a hospital. They manage and support the clinic staff to ensure the operation runs with minimal disruptions.
Erin Rich, age 46, Director of Volunteer Staffing
My role: “Myself and the volunteer leads, who have dedicated a lot of time and have been amazing, are helping to screen potential volunteers and organize them all. We’re staffing approximately 200 volunteers per weekend at this point in 11 or 12 different roles across four shifts. We’re just all super invested and collaborating really well to make sure we’re getting as many people vaccinated as we can.”
Why being here is important to me: “For much of the past 14 months many of us have felt helpless and like we didn’t really have any opportunity to make a difference. When I reached out to ask if there were any opportunities to volunteer, it was really just to make a difference in the community and help get our citizens vaccinated. So, it feels like we’ve gone from feeling helpless to just feeling hopeful. It’s so amazing to see the smiles on peoples’ faces and the joy in their eyes. We have such a great collaboration between the members of government, health departments, public health nurses, fire departments, volunteers, vaccinators and pharmacy staff across the region.”
Erin is responsible for recruiting, training, organizing and scheduling the hundreds of volunteers working the clinic.
Paul Sevigny, age 49, Incident Commander
My role: “My role is to keep an eye on things and make sure they go smoothly. I help out the volunteers and the other incident command staff if they need help and I step in and support them with what they need. We work collectively as a team because it’s a team event and we have to work together and help each other out.”
Why being here is important to me: “It’s good for the community. The state has asked us to plan for something like this for the last 15 years and with training and practice, now this is the time to show what we learned and help support our community, and all our community members have appreciated it very much.”
As a member of the clinic’s “command staff,” Paul helps ensure the clinic operates efficiently at all times and supports all departments when they are in need.
Che Elwell, age 50, Technology Lead
My role: “I’m trying to help ensure that everyone here can do their job efficiently and with as few hiccups as possible. We want to be able to capture the data we need to capture without slowing down the process of getting all of these great people vaccinated. There’s a lot of health information related to the patients and the vaccine, the dosage, even which arm it goes into, and then preparing them to be able to schedule their second shot.”
Why being here is important to me: “It’s been a very long year for everyone and it’s nice to be in a place where we’re actually making progress toward a better and brighter future. Helping so many people and having so many people be so positive has been great.”
Che brings his knowledge of software and hardware technology to the clinic, debugging scheduling software, fixing tablets and laptops and providing advanced analytics to give clinic organizers a top-level look at where things stand at any given moment.
Deb Rogers, age 53, Registration Supervisor
My role: “I’m helping organize the registration process and making sure that everything is running smoothly. We have two different registration areas with 12 volunteers altogether.”
Why being here is important to me: “It’s good for me to be here as a public health director just to know what’s going on to be able to help with the other two supervisors that are here. Everything is running very smoothly, and all of the volunteers have been doing a fantastic job.”
Deb is the director of public health for the Town of Newbury. Among other things, she has helped facilitate a doubling of the clinic’s registration tables to keep lines and waiting times short.
Patti McAlarney, age 61, Registration Lead
My role: “We’re making sure that everybody that comes here who is eligible and able to receive the vaccine, is able to receive one. We all work in public health and that covers more than people realize. This right here is the crux of public health and we’re able to do something that really addresses a need in the community that had to be met.”
Why being here is important to me: “Wefelt that it was very difficult for a lot of our community members to make it to the large vaccination sites and so the nine communities banded together and wanted to have something like this available. This way, particularly our elderly population, is able to easily obtain a vaccine.”
“It’s really exciting to be part of it. Everyone is certainly appreciative to be able to get their vaccines. It’s a really energetic group of people that has put this together. It’s been a lot of hard work.”
Patti’s team makes sure everyone comes through the entry/registration process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Patrice Allen, age 70, Volunteer Lead
My role: “I help screen volunteers to ensure they are free of symptoms when they come in to work at the clinic. The volunteer leads also provide orientation for everyone and ongoing support during each clinic session so that everyone is able to do their jobs properly.”
Why being here is important to me: “This is an issue that has been on peoples’ minds and creating anxiety for a year and interrupting lives desperately. And to see this many teachers be able to get access and people who need it getting access to the vaccine is amazing. As a retired nurse this also gives me a wonderful way to be useful and be productive and help wherever I can, and I am seeing that same feeling on the faces of the volunteers who come in. We are all grateful to be making a difference after a year where many of us felt helpless.”
As one of several Volunteer Leads, Patrice is essentially filling the role of a human resources team member for a medium sized corporation here at the clinic, part of a team that ensures hundreds of volunteers are screened, trained, outfitted and prepared every weekend.
All photos courtesy of the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative.
JGPR is providing communications services to this effort on a pro bono basis.