Volunteers Were Are Backbone of Vaccination Clinics

Back in February when COVID vaccines were just rolling out, Thurston County Public Health faced a big challenge. How to get the shots efficiently and effectively in the arms of thousands of residents every week. They knew they would need many medical and non-medical volunteers to staff mass vaccination clinics. They were confident they could meet the challenge of filling the medical volunteer positions, but they had no way of recruiting enough non-medical volunteers. They turned to United Way of Thurston County.

Already accustomed to mobilizing volunteers, United Way of Thurston County agreed to recruit, screen, train and supervise the non-medical volunteers. According to Executive Director Chris Wells, “It was a really ambitious project for sure. We’ve coordinated a lot of volunteer projects over the years, but this was big, even for us.”

Since the first clinic back in March, United Way of Thurston County recruited 1,518 individual volunteers who have staffed 85 various clinics and pop-up events filling 3,595 shifts, working a total of 19,222 volunteer hours. That allowed Thurston County to vaccinate 47,372 people as of this writing.

When asked about the volunteer base, Wells said, “They came from everywhere. People really wanted to contribute in any way they could, and they responded to our call for assistance like you would not believe. We were thrilled as volunteer shifts filled within 10 minutes.”

One of those volunteers was Amanda Ruston with HDR Engineering. She volunteered at six clinics as well as recruited coworkers, friends, and family to join her. “After spending so much time apart from everyone due to COVID, volunteering at the clinics was our first opportunity to be together again and do something for the community,” she said. “It felt really good to be able to chip in and help.”

Rachel Bernhard is an Amanda recruit. “I have loved working shifts rain or shine with my coworkers, friends, and husband,” said Bernhard. “From reception to check out, all the volunteers and County staff have been awesome and seem to have an overflowing cup of energy and excitement, even months after my first volunteer experience,” she added.

Wells summed up what was felt by so many, “I cannot say enough how inspiring it was to me to see all the volunteers and their contributions.”

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