When the call for help comes, Black River answers
When Madison County Health Department Administrator Becky Hunt received the call from her Regional Implementation Team led by the Butler County Health Department, Becky’s own department immediately organized a massive community outreach. The team’s goal is to coordinate all COVID efforts in Region E with the focus on vaccine distribution among local and public health partners.
“The State Emergency Management Agency regional office said our county was targeted as an area in need of additional vaccine allocations,” Becky says. “They had 1,000 doses for us to distribute and our goal was to get people there to receive them.”
The Madison County Health Department partnered with the agencies to host a mass COVID-19 drive-thru vaccination clinic in Fredericktown on March 5. One major piece of the puzzle was finding a location big enough for people to drive through while keeping roads clear and safe for those living in the community.
“Black River Electric Cooperative is located along Highway 72 in Fredericktown and seemed like a perfect location for this vaccine clinic,” Becky says. Working with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the team decided the co-op would be the location to ask — and Black River Electric was happy to answer the call.
Assisting the community isn’t a new concept to cooperatives. One of the seven co-op principles includes “Concern for Community,” a principle which Black River Electric happily does for the members and area it serves.
“Our Board of Directors was happy to offer our campus for this important event,” says BREC General Manager John Singleton. “Events like this remind us why we are here.”
After the location was locked in, Becky and her dedicated staff of 15 got on the phone to contact the more than 600 people who were signed up on the county waitlist to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. By the end of the week, her staff had contacted everyone.
“It takes a village to get something like this done, but when you combine efforts with people who are committed to the same goal, it’s a great thing,” says Becky.
Of the 1,000 vaccines the local health department was given to administer in one day, 950 were issued during the drive-thru clinic.
In addition to the previously mentioned agencies, the Madison County health administrator says the event wouldn’t have been successful without the assistance of a committed group of doctors, retired medical personnel, nursing students, local sheriff’s department, Madison Medical Center, Madison County Ambulance District, Missouri Department of Transportation as well as the local rural electric cooperative.
In normal co-op style, Black River Electric’s employees supported the effort, going above and beyond hosting the vaccination event. The employees worked together to prepare a meal for the 70 workers helping out that day, even providing snacks and beverages as needed.
The community vaccine outreach, which began at 10 a.m., saw cars lined up and ready to roll as soon as the clinic opened. Becky says she expected everyone to be there well into the afternoon, but the clinic was wrapped up by 2 p.m. with everything packed away and cleaned up soon after.
Bruce Miller, a retired Black River Electric employee, received his vaccination at the clinic. He was even happier that his 85-year-old mother, Dolly, was able to receive her vaccine, too. As a kidney transplant recipient, Dolly will now be able to leave her home confidently since she has had her vaccine.
“Mother has basically been at home since last March,” Bruce notes, adding she didn’t even venture out for medical appointments.
“My sister had tried to get her signed up for the vaccine everywhere without success,” he adds. “But when she heard about the clinic being held at the co-op, she was able to get her on the list.”
Bruce adds the entire process took less than an hour for his sister and mother, making it a smooth experience from start to finish.
“Mom’s ecstatic because she realizes she can now go to the store or church again,” he adds.
In events such as this one, it’s partnering with community that makes things go smoothly, bringing hope for brighter days.
“Black River Electric has always been a fabulous partner,” Becky adds. “They’re always just a phone call away.”
For more information on the Madison County Health Department, visit www.madisoncountymohealth.com. To learn more about Black River Electric Cooperative, visit www.brec.coop. For the latest on COVID-19 vaccinations in Missouri, visit https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/data/.