Adrian Donatelli spent the first few hours of St. Patrick’s Day greeting anxious and hopeful strangers, moving from car to car, gathering and distributing information.
Donatelli was among a small group of volunteers who heeded a call for help from the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce and served as a registrar for a mass Covid-19 vaccination clinic.
“I saw on Facebook it was going to be a large event so obviously they needed a lot of help,” the 42-year-old Beckley native said of her reason for volunteering.
Joe Guffy, information coordinator for the Chamber, said approximately 1,000 people were expected for Wednesday’s clinic, which was run by Access Health, Eppy’s Drug, the Raleigh County Health Department, Raleigh General Hospital and Beckley ARH Hospital.
“That’s 155 cars an hour,” he said of the volume of cars coming into the clinic at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
Guffy explained the clinics are broken down into stations, most of which are handled by healthcare professionals.
For example, he said, vaccines are administered by nurses and doctors, holding areas are manned by EMS, JanCare and doctors, Raleigh County 911 handles logistics and the Beckley Cert Team takes care of traffic.
“What’s left is the patient check-in part of the process,” he said of the job Chamber volunteers oversee.
As cars line up, volunteers like Donatelli are tasked with the completion of a 3-page form that includes the recipient’s name and some other basic questions.
On average, Guffy said, the clinics usually draw 10 volunteers.
But that’s not really enough.
“We estimate if we had 25 people per day, it would work really efficiently to keep those cars going through,” he said.
Otherwise, he explained, cars could back up in the registration lines and vaccine stations could sit empty as they wait for cars to roll through.
Beckley Fire. Lt. Chris Graham, who heads up the Beckley Cert Team, said they are also experiencing a shortage of volunteers.
The Cert Team, Graham said, is in charge of keeping recipients in the correct lanes based on time slots.
Also, he said, after people receive their vaccines, his volunteers divide them into different lanes based on whether they have allergies, as someone with no allergies needs observed by a medical professional for 15 minutes and someone who has allergies will be observed for 30.
“And we have people there letting them leave when their time comes up,” he said.
Both Guffy and Graham said they see the same group of volunteers repeatedly and worry they will eventually tire.
“I have a core group of people who are out there every day and we have worked in extreme temperatures,” Graham said, explaining the high temperature on one clinic day was 15 degrees. “You worry about your volunteers getting fatigued.”
The men both said they are hopeful to see fresh faces at future clinics.
They said as the number of vaccines made available increases, the need for volunteers increases as well.
“I was talking to the assistant director of the (Raleigh County) 911 Center and he said we’ve been given 2,200 vaccinations a week,” he said. “So in three weeks time, those 2,200 (people who received) vaccinations will have to come in and get their second shot. Then you still have your weekly allotment given for the first vaccinations.
“…You can’t do it all in two days, so you may have to extend it to 3 or 4 days a week,” he continued, explaining more clinic days may be added. “If it has to go to 3 or 4 days a week, we really need more volunteers for help.”
• • •
Both Graham and Guffy said volunteering for clinics — whether a full day or a few hours — is a rewarding experience.
“It’s really nice to be able to give people some comfort in knowing they’re protected,” Guffy said, adding the vaccinations are what will eventually bring the community back to a level of normalcy.
Graham agreed and said the experience, so far, has been “heartwarming.”
“We’ve had people come out with signs taped to the windows thanking us,” he said. “They’re waving. One little lady was blowing kisses.
“It lets you know what you’re doing is worthwhile.”
• • •
To volunteer with the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, call 304-252-7328, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.
Graham said anyone who would like to assist the Beckley Cert Team could also talk to the Chamber, could email him at email@example.com or visit Beckley Cert on Facebook.
PPE, including gloves, masks and face shields are provided for all volunteers as are drinks and food.
Guffy said anyone who would like to donate lunch or money for snacks for volunteers can do so by contacting the chamber.
— Email: firstname.lastname@example.org