VACCINATED!

And it feels so good

On Friday April 9, 2021, Germantown partners rolled out the Red Carpet for a joyful vaccination event that reached 200+ high-risk NW Philly neighbors. All three TV news networks stopped by to cover this unique clinic, which featured balloons, goodie bags, costumed fanfare and, of course, life-saving shots for everyone.

The festive concept was created and spearheaded by Sheena Thompson of the Local Community Resource Center (LCRC). “You see so many people on TV, waiting in lines like they’re going to the dentist to get their teeth drilled,” she said, “This should be a celebration! We can all use some good news. And nothing says special event like a Red Carpet!”

Sheena and a team of dedicated volunteers pulled together all the elements needed for a smooth, safe, joyful event. The historic First Presbyterian Church provided a grand, well-ventilated location with convenient parking and access plus beautiful views of Vernon Park. Vaccines were provided through Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, via the Mazzoni Center ’s Larry Benjamin – an East Falls neighbor who sits on The Local newspaper’s advisory board. Another board member provided a connection to Eileen Jones, who arranged for our use of the church through her Crisis Ministry non-profit.

The Local, of course, promoted the event and also reached out to a frequent contributor, the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA), who brought almost a dozen volunteer nurses to assist Jefferson in administering injections. Flu Bug Philly’s “Captain Quidel” kept the mood light — and surfaces sanitized in common areas. Neighbors from various activist and mutual aid collectives helped guide traffic, assist attendees, and make some noise for the newly-vaccinated as they emerged from the church under a red and white balloon arch by D’Lux Wedding & Planning. There was even a bell-ringer!

Compared to other vaccine events, the party Sheena planned required a lot of moving parts to work together. Big hand to all the partners! Everyone brought their “A” game, and radiated positive energy. The team was so efficient, in fact, they blew through their scheduled appointments early and quickly rallied to pull patients in from nearby apartments, businesses and even from gatherings of unhoused people. They used every dose that Jefferson had on them!

“This event was an opportunity for my team and I to connect with our community and make the people in our city safer,” said Dawn King, a chief officer of the VNA, whose nurses delivered more than 180 of the 200 shots that day. “The more people that receive the vaccine, the faster we will be able to slow the spread of the virus and return our lives to normal.”

Lenora Gaillard –both a volunteer and a patient – agreed. She told us she was “so glad and thankful” to get vaccinated. “This is a chance for me to be able to see my grandchildren again and I wasn’t going to miss it for anything,” she said. Unfortunately, many Germantowners don’t share Lenora’s trust in modern medicine.

“We’ve always had issues in the community with vaccine hesitancy, every year we have to fight to get people to come in and get protected —  even for the vaccines that have been proven safe for decades,” said Mark Kobb, MD Director of Medical and Behavioral Service at Covenant House, Inc., “ There has always been a lot of disinformation about vaccines, particularly in communities that have been disproportionately affected by preventable diseases.”

Healthcare professionals citywide race to vaccinate at-risk people before infection rates rise in the unvaxxed and unmasked, and new virus variants threaten our public safety. As the Mazzoni Center’s communications director, Larry Benjamin has been part of numerous LGBTQ clinics in the City, where he’s seen a lot of skepticism and resistance. For him, the secret to overcoming these barriers is to address them at a personal level.

“People are more likely to believe those they know, like neighbors, community leaders, trusted sources,” Larry said, “We need to work more from the ground up. The people in the community have to take control and set up these localized events if we want to be successful here.” That’s exactly why the LCRC exists.

Since the fall of 2020, the LCRC has been working tirelessly to fill the gap between services available and community access throughout the pandemic. They’ve been promoting Census and voter rights, distributing food & information, connecting neighbors to City programs, and now partnering locally to ensure residents can get the vaccine they need right here where they live.

“We want our community to be protected from COVID-19 and we were ready to do whatever is needed to reach our neighbors,” said Sheena. The LCRC has more vaccine outreach planned, to get on the list call 267-428-3520.

Meanwhile, the LCRC is presenting a Local Resource Fair at Maplewood Mall for Saturday May 15th (11am to 3pm).

The sidewalks will be lined with tables providing swag and info from a variety of community service and assistance providers including – but not limited to – Career Link, the Mazzoni Center, The Wardrobe, Eckard Connections, Black Women Health Alliance, Women Organized Against Rape, Sisters Returning Home, Tabor Services. Music, refreshments and family entertainment will round out the day.

While you’re checking out local resources, be sure to explore the newly-renovated shopping plaza, with some wonderful new shops and cafes in addition to beloved staples like the Maplewood Nutrition Center, a health food store that’s been here since 1963.

For more information about this event and the participants listed here, go to crcphilly.org.

Sponsors/Vendors/Volunteers/Providers: it’s not too late to reach out! Email director@crcphilly.org and we’ll find a way to fit you in.

If you’re looking to receive a COVID-19 vaccine you can set an appointment through most local pharmacies, or through the city’s sign-up page at covid-vaccine-interest.phila.gov (you can also call 215-685-5488). More than 100 providers are approved to administer the vaccines, which are free for the recipient.

About Cory Clark 8 Articles
Cory Clark is a Photojournalist and writer focused on Human Rights and other social issues. His work can be found in hundreds of media outlets from Philly Magazine to Fortune. He has been a long time freelancer for Getty Images, The Associated Press, and Association French Presse. Cory, his wife, and son are residents of East Germantown.

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