Earlier this year I had a chance to volunteer at a few of the Wayne County Health Department’s immunization clinics, where they were providing free vaccinations against COVID-19. As much as my particular role was pretty unexciting — greeting visitors, filling out vaccine cards and scheduling follow-up appointments — I found it to be a moving experience.
It was early enough in vaccination availability that the people who came in were often from especially vulnerable populations, and they were encountering a first hope of putting the fears of Coronavirus infection and symptoms behind them. It was powerful to witness those moments when they were finally sitting for “the shot.” Sometimes there were tears, sometimes smiles, sometimes just a solemn appreciation for what medical science had achieved, and the possible turning point it represented in personal freedom and community health.
Behind the scenes of “the shot” was the work of the Wayne County Health Department and its staff, volunteers and leadership along with their many community partners. The WCHD, led by Christine Stinson, was one of the many organizations in Wayne County and across the country making sure that the promise of vaccination became a reality for our community in a safe, controlled, professional way. I watched as they figured out how to make people more comfortable throughout their appointments, how to balance efficiency with hospitality, how to keep the environment clean and safe, how they dealt with people who were confused or even frustrated by the process, and how they coordinated a constantly rotating schedule of EMTs, nurses, community volunteers and others who were there to make it all happen.
It wasn’t always perfect, but it was impressive, and I was honored to be a part of it in some small way. And, I was deeply appreciative that we live in a place where we are privileged to benefit from that kind of organization, leadership and efficiency, especially when it comes to having fast and free access to a vaccine that could literally change the direction of the health of our entire community.
There are those who have decided that this privilege is somehow a burden, and who see fit to argue about the inconveniences and trade-offs that come with living in a society where our individual actions and decisions can significantly help or hurt one another. Some of them have resorted to personal attacks. I won’t try to address their logic or motivations here, but as usual that kind of group is capable of being loud in a way that makes their views seem representative of a majority, when in reality they are likely a small minority.
It’s important, then, for the rest of us to take a moment to make sure that the people who have done so much for the community — in a time where we needed just that kind of care, efficiency and leadership more than ever — know that they are appreciated. That their diligence in adhering to and crafting best practices and guidelines (however fluid) in the face of public anxiety has been noticed. That their ability to translate the wonders of science and medicine into real, direct, daily community benefit is something to embrace and celebrate. And that their personal and professional sacrifices along the way have not been in vain.
How can you express that appreciation?
One way would be to drop the Health Department a note by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send them a thank you card in the mail at 100 S. 5th Street, Richmond, IN 47374.
If you’re really feeling the love, Lonnie Valentine is organizing an outdoor gathering to show support on this coming Friday, September 10th from 7:30-8:30 AM (or for as long as you like) at the Health Department, at the corner of South A and South 5th Streets in Richmond. You can let Lonnie know if you are planning on attending by phone (765-983-1353) or email.
The staff and volunteers at the Wayne County Health Department certainly aren’t the only people deserving of our gratitude in reflecting on our community response to COVID-19. But that response, and their work, is ongoing, and there’s no time like the present to tell them how much we appreciate it.