NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — From directing traffic to putting shots in arms, volunteers aiding the Niagara County Department of Health are helping to get people the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We decided we could either sit on the sidelines or be part of the solution," Wesley Pickreign, a 65-year-old retired school principal, said, "I want us to heal. I want us to get back to normal. I really feel that being here helps us do that as a community and I want to be able to help any way I can."
From retired school teachers to retired nurses, dozens of people from across Western New York have stepped up to help the Niagara County Health Department vaccinate those in phases 1A and 1B.
"I want the community to be healthy again," Rosanne Schiavi, a retired nurse, said, "If this is the way I can help to get our communities safe again, then I’m happy. When I leave here, every day I volunteer, I’m tired, but I go home with a sense of pride, a sense of satisfaction."
Daniel and Linda Hunter have both retired from the education industry. Daniel spent the summer volunteering at Niagara County testing sites, while Linda made masks. They both now volunteer at Niagara County vaccination sites, spending their 70s giving back.
"The little bit you can do I think is extremely worthwhile. This is extremely worthwhile," Linda said.
"I’d like to think my directing of the people really makes it possible to vaccinate more and more people each time," Daniel said.
Dan Stapleton, the Niagara County Public Health Director, said without volunteers, the COVID-19 vaccine points of distribution couldn't happen.
"We can’t do this without volunteers. No doubt about it. We have a lot of great staff and great partners but one of the most important parts is these volunteers because we couldn’t do it without them," Stapleton said.
These volunteers spend 2-3 days a week at vaccination clinics despite the risks.
"In June, I had a heart attack. A very serious heart attack. I would be considered truly at risk. Yet, I don’t feel that this is risky. We are being very careful," Linda said.
The volunteers are also providing something a doctor can't prescribe, something that has nothing to do with medicine. All of the volunteers have received the COVID-19 vaccine, so they can share their experiences first hand.
"Part of our job is to make people feel comfortable," Pickreign said.
"I like to make them feel comfortable and talk to them. I think it makes a difference. I really think people feel more comfortable when you talk to them and give them some kindness," Linda said.
Stapleton said as more vaccine doses become available and more become eligible to take the vaccine, the Niagara County Department of Health will need more volunteers. You do not have to be a resident of Niagara County to volunteer. Click here to apply to become a volunteer at Niagara County vaccination clinics.