As Novant Health continues efforts to vaccinate the public against COVID-19, community volunteers are joining the battle. About 160 people volunteered their time at the Spectrum Center on Feb. 13 as more than 2,000 people rolled up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“You see a lot of different emotions. I’ve seen some spouses who got their shots together and they look at each other with a smile like ‘Yes. We finally did it.’,” said volunteer Miriam Espaillat.
With public transportation and nearby parking, the Spectrum Center is one of the most accessible locations in uptown Charlotte. It is one of six planned mass vaccination sites that will cover 14 counties and more than quadruple the amount of appointments available in each community.
‘This is pretty special to me’
Nicole Todd felt compelled to volunteer after her husband, Anthony, died from COVID-19 last fall. “This is pretty special to me,” she said.
Todd was tasked with sanitizing chairs and chatting with people after they received their vaccine. It is recommended that people wait 15 minutes before leaving the vaccination site – just to be certain there is not an allergic reaction. Those who have a history of adverse reactions to injections are advised to wait for 30 minutes.
Another volunteer, Atul Contractor, was waiting for patients by the entrance, taking them to the correct location to receive their vaccine and helping them find their way back. “Everybody is really happy,” he said.
‘We’re part of the community’
Dalton Espaillat, owner of Sabor Latin Street Grill, and his wife Miriam corralled a group of 14 people to volunteer at the event.
“We're part of the community and this was an opportunity to give back and be part of something really special,” Miriam Espaillat said. “My parents are over 65 and when I took them to get their vaccine, it was really emotional to see them happy that they finally got it. I knew it was something that felt special.”
Volunteer Billy Price cheered people on as they exited the Spectrum Center. “Everyone seems so relieved to be able to get the shot. It’s just a great effort,” Price said.
Volunteer experience has been ‘deeply meaningful’
Currently, nearly 2,000 people have signed up to be volunteers and about 600 have been able to serve in some capacity, said Melissa Parker, patient advocacy officer and vice president of patient services at Novant Health. She said the volunteers help create a “remarkable vaccination experience” as they are the first individuals that people encounter when they arrive for their appointment.
“Volunteers work as parking lot attendants and front door greeters. They take the patient’s temperature and provide directions to the patient for where to check in,” Parker said. “They help with the check-in process, clean chairs in between patients, assist with way-finding, talk with patients in observation and provide an ‘I got my shot’ button and thank the patient for choosing Novant Health.”
Parker said the volunteer experience has been “deeply meaningful” for people who have shared how gratifying it is to be a part of this hopeful moment in history as we all work together to end this pandemic.
While Novant Health is appreciative of our communities’ willingness to raise their hands and help us in our vaccination efforts, we currently have the volunteers needed to help support our vaccination clinics and events. However, once the vaccine supply from the state of North Carolina increases, we believe there will be a need for additional volunteers. We will communicate broadly to our communities about how, when and where they can sign up.
TOP PHOTO: Volunteer Lien Truong cheered people on as they exited the Spectrum Center on Feb. 13.