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‘We’ve become friends’: Volunteers share stories about working at Kane County’s COVID-19 mass vaccination site

Elgin resident Veronica Noland loves volunteering at the Kane Vax Hub in Batavia, where she works to help people get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“At the time I started I couldn’t get the vaccine, and I had family members in other counties that were getting it, and my county wasn’t ready to give mine to me yet,” Noland said about why she wanted to volunteer at the site. “I thought to myself ‘If I couldn’t beat them, I was going to join them,’ so I was going to help get as many shots in people’s arms as possible until it got to my turn.”

A group of volunteers met with members of the media on Saturday morning to share their stories about working at the mass vaccination site, which opened last March.

All available COVID-19 vaccination brands are available at the Kane Vax Hub in Batavia.

All available COVID-19 vaccination brands are available at the Kane Vax Hub in Batavia. (Julie Walker for Shaw Local/)

Medical Reserve Core volunteers have donated a collective total of 10,000 hours at the Kane Vax Hub, according to a press release. Liisa Lawrence is one of dozens of MRC volunteers who have worked at the site over the course of the pandemic.

Joyce Hutchinson (left) and Liisa Lawrence (right) work at the medical screening table at the Kane Vax Hub on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia.

Joyce Hutchinson (left) and Liisa Lawrence (right) work at the medical screening table at the Kane Vax Hub on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia. (Julie Walker for Shaw Local/)

“I felt like I didn’t want to sit at home as the pandemic was getting going,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to jump in and find out what I could do.”

Kane County Health Department Emergency Response Supervisor Aaron Stevens said that approximately 190,000 thousand vaccines have been distributed at the site, which is located in the former Sam’s Club on Randall Road.

Aaron Stevens, Kane County Medical Reserve Corps Director/Emergency Response Supervisor, and Julie Mann, Kane County Public Information Officer chat at the Kane Vax Hub on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia.

Aaron Stevens, Kane County Medical Reserve Corps Director/Emergency Response Supervisor, and Julie Mann, Kane County Public Information Officer chat at the Kane Vax Hub on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia. (Julie Walker for Shaw Local/)

“We had a core group of about 30 people that had been with the Medical Reserve Core for a number of years,” Stevens said. “The best thing was for us in having that resource, we were one of the first counties who were able to open up a mass vaccination site in January of last year, [and] be able to quickly distribute the vaccine to the 1A groups, the 1B and 1C and those prioritized individuals.”

Some MRC volunteers are already working medical professionals.

“This is great for us to get out and put our nursing skills to use,” said MRC volunteer Jennifer Weber, who also works as a nurse. “I actually had a friend who said, ‘This is your war, go fight it.’ So, we kind of looked into what different options were and that’s how we came across the MRC.”

Nurses Jennifer Weber and Jennifer Banaszak chat at the Kane Vax Hub on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia.

Nurses Jennifer Weber and Jennifer Banaszak chat at the Kane Vax Hub on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia. (Julie Walker for Shaw Local/)

Weber signed up to volunteer with friend and fellow nurse Jennifer Banaszaka.

“We’ve done about a hundred hours each,” Banaszaka said. “So it’s been over a year for sure.”

MRC volunteers work a variety of jobs at the site, from administering the vaccines themselves to directing visitors, assisting in contact tracing and answering questions for those hesitant about the vaccine.

“You can try and educate people as much as you want,” Banaszaka said.”Unfortunately, in this day and age there’s people you’re not going to be able to convince.”

All available COVID-19 vaccination brands are available at the Kane Vax Hub in Batavia.

All available COVID-19 vaccination brands are available at the Kane Vax Hub in Batavia. (Julie Walker for Shaw Local/)

Stevens said all jobs are integral to maintaining efficiency at the site, which at times saw thousands of daily visitors.

“At our height our capacity was 3,000 [people] and going over that sometimes with 3,600 in a day,” said Stevens. “We just finished a surge of boosters in mid-January and again we were back to about that number over a shorter period of time.”

“I wish you could see us when we were doing 3,000 people a day,” Lawrence said. “It was something otherworldly.”

Volunteers also shared in emotional moments with visitors.

“We would have people literally coming in here in tears because they were so overjoyed to be out of the house,” Weber said. “We would almost start crying with people initially.”

Time contributed by MRC volunteers amounts to $240,000 in savings for the county, according to a press release.

“A lot of us, we just sign up for shifts straight down the board, and just are here as often as we can be,” Lawrence said.

Retired registered nurse Linda Hartley, who has put in over 300 hours at the Kane Vax Hub, administers a vaccination on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia.

Retired registered nurse Linda Hartley, who has put in over 300 hours at the Kane Vax Hub, administers a vaccination on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 in Batavia. (Julie Walker for Shaw Local/)

“It’s a great camaraderie among the volunteers,” Noland said. “We’ve become friends.”

The Kane County mass vaccination site is expected to continue operations through March, according to Kane County Public Information Officer Julie Mann.

For information on vaccination appointments, click here.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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