Back in February, Arlington Free Clinic became a COVID-19 vaccination site. Suddenly, after over a year of only being able to offer virtual volunteer opportunities, we had an immediate need for volunteer vaccinators, pharmacists, and line flow/ check-in helpers – in addition to providers and EMTs to oversee the observation room where patients waited for 15 minutes following their shots. We turned to our team of more than 400 volunteers who had been helping us pre-COVID (as well as throughout the pandemic when their roles aligned with our telehealth needs). Not only did they answer our call for a return to in-person service, but when they came back, many brought their families with them! In all, we onboarded 50 new bilingual volunteers in three weeks to help support our vaccine clinics; this was thanks in large part to the connections of our existing volunteer base.
Jim Ricca, Karen Luz & Alyssa Luz-Ricca: Alyssa was the one who brought her parents (and a friend) to the Clinic. She was a summer intern at AFC a few years ago and has continued to stay involved. We put out a call for interpreters and Alyssa signed up, but since the whole family speaks Spanish and AFC had such an urgent need, her parents soon started joining her. Jim is a family doctor who works in public health, so he asked patients the COVID screening questions while Karen checked people in. Alyssa was usually stationed in the waiting room checking people out or telling them when their 15-minute waiting period was up.
“It was fun at the end of the shift to share our experiences. We often went back to our house in Arlington to hang out for a while before Alyssa headed back to her home in DC. It was wonderful to share the experience of volunteering together, and to actually be able to do something to fight the pandemic by helping people get their vaccinations.” – Karen
Brad & Bena Clemens: Brad first got involved with AFC when he lived above our facility in the AvalonBay apartments. He would come downstairs every evening before a big clinic and set things up, and then come back and volunteer during the session. His wife, Bena, works as a graphic designer and was eager to share her time and expertise with us. They regularly volunteered together during the vaccine clinics – and went above and beyond when they rented a U-Haul and drove to Richmond and back on a summer Saturday to pick up two 12 cu ft refrigerators, two wheelchairs, and about 300 blood pressure cuffs at a warehouse and brought them back to AFC and to Culmore Clinic in Fairfax County. Thanks to them, we now have two brand new – essentially free – pharmacy refrigerators and three happy pharmacists!
“My husband Brad and I were immensely grateful to be a part of AFC’s continued mission to provide care for our neighborhood. The best part was that we had found a really rewarding way to spend time with each other during what seemed like an endless pandemic. It felt really gratifying to play a small part in making things better!” – Bena
Emilia & Andrea Soto: Emilia has been a volunteer interpreter since 2015, helping with our gynecology appointments or Breast Health Clinics once a week. When we set up the COVID-19 vaccine clinics, she was one of the first, if not the first person to sign up and gave 35 hours to our COVID vaccination efforts.
“I have been volunteering for years at the Clinic and always talked about how much I enjoy it with my family. My sister Andrea does not live in Arlington but ended up living here with me for a couple of months due to the pandemic. The moment I told her I was volunteering for the COVID clinics she wanted to be a part of it as well. Being able to help and spread the word about getting the vaccines was an amazing experience for both of us! I am happy I got to share this with my sister.” -Emilia Soto