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Vaccination Event Brings Community Together

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Staff Post:
Cas Shearin
Media Strategist / Senior Writer

Getting vaccinated for family

Linda Goins wasn’t expecting to get vaccinated when she stumbled onto the vaccination event while taking her sister to a medical appointment at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes in Danbury.   

Looking out the window while waiting for her sister, the grandmother of three who’d been against getting vaccinated noticed tents going up in front of the hospital with festive blue balloons and a flurry of activity. Curious, she asked someone what was happening. 

That person connected her with McKayla Creed, a vaccine promotion coordinator with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC). Ms. Creed, who was just on her fourth day at her new job, listened to Ms. Goins’ concerns, walked her through the misinformation that had been a barrier to her getting vaccinated, and answered her concerns with science – all while connecting with her as a granddaughter/grandmother. “She was really hesitant about it but she felt she had to get it for her grandbaby,” Ms. Creed said. 

“I was talking with her (Ms. Creed), and she was talking about her grandmother,” Ms. Goins said. “I said, ‘Let’s go ahead and do this.’ I’m glad I did it now.” So was her early-vaccinated sister, who’d been begging Ms. Goins to get vaccinated. She found out her sister got the vaccine as she was leaving the hospital. “Thank God, praise God, I’m so happy!” her sister exclaimed. 

Stokes County vaccine drive

The event in Danbury was one of two drive-through vaccine events in Stokes County this month, part of Disability Rights North Carolina’s (DRNC’s) Project ACCESS (All Communities Count Equitably for Safety and Support). In Stokes County, 60 percent of the population is unvaccinated, and more than 90 percent of its Latinx population remains unvaccinated. 

The afternoon event in Stokes County, a rural county on the Virginia border in northwest NC, had the cheerful feel of a community fair. Event partners greeted neighbors and friends driving through, asking about family members, and sharing stories. At times, the line of cars backed up because of the visiting, but no one was in a hurry; after all, they had to wait 15 minutes after their shot so the opportunity to catch up with people was a bonus. Several times, the hospital’s pharmacist, Rex McGee, took a break from mixing vaccines and dispensing medication to walk around the porch and lawn in front of the hospital and serenade everyone with extraordinary fiddle playing, mixing buoyant tunes with others so soulful he transformed the sound from that of a fiddle to a bagpipe. 

Working together for ACCESS

Along with DRNC, sponsoring partners PTRC and LiteBrite Community Hospital of Stokes had tents with tables and information to share with participants as they drove through the event. In addition, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC/Providence Community Meals provided healthy meals, bags of fresh produce, and boxes of packaged meals. DRNC provided 10 $50 gift cards that were raffled off to vaccine recipients at the end of the event. 

Other Stokes County partners include the Association of Mexicans in NC (AMEXCAN), the NC Latino COVID-19 Task Force, Centro Unido Latino-Americano, Eastern NC Latin Americans Coalition, LILA, ULECAN, the City of King, Stokes County Senior Services, the King Senior Center, Solutions for Independence, King American Legion Post 290, the Administration on Community Living, the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities and the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. By the end of the four-hour event, nearly 80 people were vaccinated, 39 of whom were vaccinated for the first time. “We are truly grateful for the phenomenal partners who worked so tirelessly to make this such a successful event,” said Iris Peoples Green, DRNC’s director of constituent services. “Vaccinations given at this event, and at next week’s event in King, will have lasting ripple effects for the wonderful people in Stokes County. We are thrilled to be able to partner with this community to build access and safety.”

“Why did you get your shot?”

Terri Burton, there to get her booster vaccine, was moved to tears as she observed all the partners working together to make the event a success. “I’m just so proud this little county pulled off something like this,” she said. “I get so emotional – it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting to see the love, the caring, the volunteers.” 

Ms. Burton has neuropathy, and it is difficult for her to stand for long. “That I can stay in the car and be serviced, it means the world to me,” she said. 

Brock Wood came after his father kept after him to get vaccinated. “He’s been calling me to really push me to come get it so I decided to come,” he said, noting he would have gotten vaccinated much earlier if his employer offered it like it does for flu shots. “I’m not one to seek out to get a shot,” he said, expressing surprise at how easy it was. “It’s really great – it didn’t hurt at all.” Melinda Miller, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the hospital, and her daughter, Courtney Schmeltzer, who is in training at the hospital to become a CNA, got their first shots at the drive-through so they will be prepared if the shots are mandated by their employer. Timothy Chalmers decided he wanted to get vaccinated so he wouldn’t miss any more school – or football games. The 10th grade running back and linebacker for the South Stokes High School Sauras was quarantined when he was exposed just after school started. But his quarantine ended just in time for him to play in the big game against rival Cardinals at East Surry High School. Unfortunately, the Sauras lost. “It was close at first,” he said, but one of the team’s best players was injured and the team couldn’t overcome that loss to win. As the sun began to set, a trio of vehicles came through, filled with nine members of the same family. They rallied together because of their newest member, a six-month-old boy who was sleeping soundly in the first car of the group. They wanted to keep the baby safe, just as Ms. Goins decided to keep her grandbaby safe. The Stokes County vaccine drive on Sept. 16 was the first of two Project ACCESS events DRNC is facilitating in that area. The next one is Thursday, Sept. 23, in King. These events follow Project ACCESS’s first two drives this past summer, both on the Virginia border but in the northeastern part of the state in Gates County. The events in Gates helped that community boost its numbers – and attracted a VIP. At the July 15 event, held on an asphalt parking lot on a sweltering sunny day, NC Gov. Roy Copper and a team braved the heat and dropped in, attracting local politicians and media. That day the governor praised DRNC’s Project ACCESS – and stayed on his consistent message of encouraging everyone to get the vaccine.

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