By Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey
At the beginning of February 2021, I was on the phone with the community relations and AmeriCorps Program coordinator at Ryan Chelsea-Clinton Health Center on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.
We were talking through a nutrition workshop she and one of her AmeriCorps staff would be leading for our Living Well program. We began talking about the vaccine distribution and she asked if the Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries staff had all had a chance to receive the vaccine.
At that point, only about half our staff had successfully found an appointment. So, she offered to bring some of their nurses over one day to vaccinate us, as long as we had at least 10 people who needed doses.
While we don’t have 10 people on staff, we could definitely find 10 people who needed vaccines.
Over the next week or so, we started thinking through this opportunity as a team. We knew that vaccine access was limited to those who were savvy and lucky enough to get an appointment. So, we went back to Ryan Health and asked about opening up appointments to our clients. We had a few meetings with the clinic’s leadership and eventually settled on offering 40 appointments during our food pantry one Saturday.
On a very rainy Saturday in February, one of our faithful food pantry volunteers and I crowded under the tent outside to sign up anyone who wanted to get the vaccine. Carlos was the first person I spoke to. He said “yes” very quickly. At some point in the middle of filling out the three forms needed to register for the appointment, he said, “Thank you so much for doing this! I don’t have a computer and I don’t have family to help me, so I couldn’t ever get an appointment.”
Later in the morning, we did a dance with another client as she finished all her forms and reserved her spot. We signed up about 15 people that morning. Between our homelessness support programs, a local nonprofit, a school, and the shelter across the street, we quickly filled all 40 spots and had a waiting list.
At the beginning of March, during our food pantry distribution, Ryan Health’s nurses set up in our sanctuary space and, following strict COVID safety precautions, folks filed in to receive their first dose. At the beginning of April, they came again to receive their second.
Thank you for supporting access to vaccines for shelter staff, high school teachers and staff, and our community’s most vulnerable residents.
Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel appointed serving in New York City, N.Y., as ministry facilitator for Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries. Learn more about Lesley-Ann’s ministry at www.cbf.net/tommey.
The CBF Offering for Global Missions makes possible the long-term presence of CBF field personnel like Lesley-Ann. Support for the Offering extends lasting hope and loving hospitality to people living in poverty around the world. Give online today at www.cbf.net/OGM.