Summit County offers thanks to hundreds of volunteers who helped with vaccination drives
Officials say county ranks 3rd in the state for 1st doses thanks to volunteers
Summit County currently ranks third in the state for having the highest percentage of the population vaccinated with at least one dose, and many county officials attribute this milestone to the 200-plus dedicated volunteers who helped administer doses in the past six months.
To celebrate, county officials and local town staff came together Thursday, May 20, to recognize the volunteers who helped. They were ushered through the bus barn — the county’s drive-thru vaccination site — and were greeted with music and cheers from county and other local staff. All were given a Visa gift card and a declaration of appreciation from local officials.
Summit County Nurse Manager Lauren Gilbert said most of the 200 dedicated community members are recurring volunteers, some of whom have worked every week since the county began administering the vaccines in late December.
Two of the volunteers are friends Mickie Parsons and Gini Bartley. Parsons, a nurse, began administering doses in December while Bartley began volunteering on the administrative side in January. Since the beginning, the two have volunteered two, sometimes three, times a week.
“I like to volunteer and give back to the community, and I started working with Mickie, and it’s just been the most fulfilling, gratifying, wonderful experience,” Bartley said. “People are so grateful; they are so positive. It’s just been a wonderful experience.”
Parsons, who is the mother of Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland, agrees it has been a positive experience.
“People are really upbeat. We had one man come through and wanted to know if he could get a car wash, too. So I told him, not unless he had a coupon,” Parsons said, laughing.
Both Bartley and Parsons are in the at-risk population for the virus because of their age. When asked if this worried them, both said it wasn’t something they were concerned about, especially since they had received their vaccine around the same time they began volunteering.
“After the first time I volunteered, I got my first shot, so it was kind of an incentive to do it,” Parsons said. “But I never really felt at risk. We were wearing the prescribed (personal protective equipment) and were maintaining social distance, and everyone coming through the pod was wearing a mask without exception.”
Volunteers Cyndy and Kem Swarts, both 75, also never felt at risk while volunteering. The couple said the positive reactions from visitors made it a worthwhile experience.
“Everybody was so, so happy when they came up through the line to get their shots,” Kem Swarts said. “I would have people that had tears in their eyes. They were so happy and excited.”
Gilbert said the call for volunteers started organically through the Summit County Community and Senior Center. The center began asking for volunteers to deliver food during the pandemic, and when vaccines became available, it switched to recruiting volunteers to administer doses. While there were about 200 dedicated volunteers, Gilbert said the county has a Rolodex of about 400 community members.
To volunteer, medical personnel have to be credentialed in order to administer vaccines. Those not certified can partake in administrative duties by participating in a quick training during their first shift. Responsibilities include assisting with documentation, symptom screening and more.
Without the help of these volunteers, Gilbert said she’s not convinced the county would have been as successful in getting as much of its population vaccinated as it has so far. Currently, 63.7% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated, ranking fourth in the state.
“We would have never been able to do this many vaccines without our volunteers,” Gilbert said. “If we had to do it as the health department, we would have only been able to supply a few vaccinators for every clinic. To do our mega pods, and those are days we serve over 1,000 people, that requires at a minimum 12 vaccinators in the barn, not including the infrastructure that the pod requires.”
Moving forward, Gilbert said volunteers will still be needed for the few community vaccination events the county has planned. Once those conclude, individuals can continue to get a vaccine at smaller community clinics.
For more information about getting a vaccine, visit the county’s website.
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