Are you having trouble loading this page? Click here to view a text-only version.

virtual_dave_1.jpg
fruit.jpg
sewing-mask.jpg
donations.jpg

Vaccination Access Program Volunteers Help Community Members

LifePath’s Vaccination Access Program (VAP) is supporting the community by providing assistance with COVID-19 vaccinations to people who do not have internet access, who need transportation to their vaccination appointment, or who are not able to leave their homes to attend a vaccination clinic. The program has been running since early February and is made possible by a group of 36 dedicated volunteers, including 12 people who return voice messages to help people register online for appointments and 24 who have stepped forward to drive people to their appointments.

Knowing how appreciative clients are to have transportation to medical appointments, coupled with the importance of immunization against COVID-19, made the decision a very easy one. 

Joan Joshi, 88, of South Deerfield, said she had “no other way to get to Greenfield” for her vaccination appointment as she no longer has a car and doesn’t see very well.  “I felt very much taken care of.  The very nice gentleman picked me up when he said he would and was very pleasant.  It was handled very well and very professionally.  I’m very grateful to LifePath for arranging this,” said Joshi.

Arleen Leuthner, 78, of Greenfield, also received transportation to her vaccination appointment.  She says she felt “very good” about her experience with VAP and said the people she interacted with were “very knowledgeable.”

Mark Devlin, VAP’s Program Manager, says, “I am honored to contribute to this timely and essential vaccination access work.  Together, Lynne Feldman [Director of Community Services at LifePath] and I have developed a process that enables our kind-hearted, internet-connected, computer-savvy volunteers to partner with neighboring elders in need of exactly that type of support at this time.”

VAP Volunteer Jack McKenzieVAP Volunteer Jack McKenzieOne of those kind-hearted volunteers is Jack McKenzie, 67, a thirty-five year resident of Greenfield before moving to South Deerfield over a year ago. Before retiring, McKenzie worked in Direct Marketing for the Channing Bete Company for thirty-six years. “Their publications helped people to make improvements in their daily lives, much as LifePath does. That type of volunteer work is what I enjoy,” explains McKenzie, who has also volunteered since 2017 for LifePath’s Rides for Health program and volunteers at Baystate Franklin.  When asked why he wanted to volunteer, McKenzie says it is “a natural extension” of driving for Rides for Health, stating, “Knowing how appreciative clients are to have transportation to medical appointments, coupled with the importance of immunization against COVID-19, made the decision a very easy one.”

McKenzie describes his experience so far as being “very positive” saying, “I think that the clinics are doing a wonderful job, and the staff are extremely friendly, helpful, and patient. I particularly enjoy working with elders and have found the support provided by LifePath to be a tremendous asset to our community.”

VAP Volunteer Vickie SelleckVAP Volunteer Vickie SelleckVickie Selleck, who is in her 60s, lives in Buckland, and is a retired electrical engineer, had already provided vaccination registration help to 27 people at the time of our interview.  She credits her mother with making her want to volunteer for the Vaccination Access Program.  “My mother was my role model. Her life of volunteering and advocating for people in need inspires me to help whenever I can,” says Selleck.  Also, Selleck explains, “I'm disabled, so volunteering from my home, in my easy chair, is a good fit for me.”

When asked for anecdotes about volunteering for the VAP program, Selleck recounts the day that Massachusetts opened eligibility to people 65+ years of age and those with 2 qualifying medical conditions, saying, “the experience was frustrating for our callers because of computer systems that crashed and multi-hour wait times at the 2-1-1 number. I was able to assure people that they weren't doing anything wrong, and they weren't the only elders in Massachusetts who weren't able to book appointments that day.”

Selleck says that people have been overwhelmingly positive about the entire process and understand that there are a million-plus people trying to get a limited number of vaccines.  “They are grateful for this LifePath program and the volunteers. They say things like ‘I'm just so glad I have a human I can talk to’ and ‘It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.’ Many of them have been so isolated and afraid (for good reason) for a year, and getting the vaccine will be life-changing.”  

Selleck also credits LifePath’s training and treatment of volunteers, saying, “LifePath has provided great support for the volunteers. We had comprehensive training and the LifePath staff and lead volunteers are always available to answer any questions and solve problems.”

“We created the VAP to help older people and people with disabilities get the COVID-19 vaccine so they themselves could stay healthy, resume a more normal way of life, and help create community herd immunity,” says Lynne Feldman, who oversees the program.  “Because appointments are so scarce, it may take time, but our staff and volunteers are committed to ensuring that everyone who calls will receive support.”  So far, LifePath has helped about 175 people with rides and appointments, with many more people on the waiting list.

Selleck prepares for days when clinics open new appointment slots, so she can call people before the appointments are booked.  “The current process for making appointments for vaccination is challenging to say the least. The people who have computers, computer skills, time, and energy to devote to often fruitless searching, and fast, reliable internet, are overwhelmingly the ones getting the appointments. This leaves out many elders and people with disabilities, who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. LifePath is trying to close that gap.  To everyone waiting to get vaccinated: Hang in there and stay positive!  I'm confident the systems for signing up will continue to improve.  You'll be able to get vaccinated, and by doing so, you'll contribute to the health of your neighbors and friends and the end of the pandemic in our region,” says Selleck.

Anyone who leaves a message on Lifepath’s Vaccination Access Helpline at 413-829-9285 will receive a call back from one of our staff of volunteers when local appointments are available.  Please keep in mind that right now, there is little to no appointment availability in our area. While everyone who wants an appointment will get one, it will take time.  In the meantime, we can continue to keep each other safe by wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and washing our hands.