May 2021 - Louisville Club Helps Seniors Get Their COVID Vaccination Shots
by Jeanine Sterling ‘76
It already seems like eons ago that the COVID vaccine was first being introduced to high-risk populations. We weren’t too far into the New Year before seniors who were 70 years or older were suddenly being told to hop online and make their way through a maze of appointment, location, and pharma alternatives.
It’s no understatement to say that this could be a confusing, frustrating, and lonely process. Fortunately, in Louisville, Notre Dame’s senior alumni had a crew of fellow grads ready and eager to help.
Beth (Duran) Thomas ’05, President of the ND Club of Greater Louisville, spearheaded an effort to reach out to all of their local senior alumni, provide organized information about local appointment availability, and offer assistance with transportation and scheduling:
So, Beth, who came up with the idea of helping local seniors with the vaccination effort in the first place?
The inspiration was the happiness and hope I felt when I scheduled an appointment for my 90-year-old grandmother, Connie Duran (who also happens to be a huge Notre Dame fan). My husband Kevin Thomas '03, was vaccinated early because he's a healthcare worker, so he was able to offer safe transportation. I figured we could provide the same help to our senior alumni.
You were actually already volunteering at Louisville’s mass vaccination site, right?
Yes, and some of my alumna friends were doing the same (Vandy Chisholm '01, Laura Eifler '01 and Kathryn Lavelle '06). Louisville's senior alumni group is the heart and soul of our club, so as soon as my relatives were scheduled I reached out to our Senior Alumni Coordinator, Ed Armento ‘65, to see if any of our senior alumni needed help. We also posted the idea on Notre Dame’s ClubHub Facebook page so other clubs could consider outreach.
Vandy, Laura and Kathryn continued to share appointment links and offered their assistance however needed. Luckily Kentucky's vaccinations moved quickly, so the need wasn't huge, but we just wanted our senior alumni and friends to know we cared and were available if needed. Things we take for granted -- like having an email address, computer or car -- were barriers during this hectic time. We found that once you learned the tricks to online appointments, it was easy to continue helping people.
How did your club communicate the availability of the appointment info to local senior alumni?
Regular group blast emails were used. Our senior alumni group email contact list is maintained on an ongoing basis and used for regular contact with all area senior alumni.
Why did you think this was something your Club should do?
Many of our senior alumni are in their late 70s and early to mid-80s. Although there are 89 senior alumni on our group email list, only about 20-25 are able to participate in monthly luncheons. Regular emails during the COVID-19 pandemic solicited information as to any senior alumni in need of transportation, groceries, prescription deliveries, etc. This connectivity is ongoing and routine, and not just associated with extraordinary needs brought about by the pandemic.
What advice do you have for any other club that's interested in helping their senior alumni with vaccination and any other COVID-related needs?
In Louisville and many cities, the panic/challenge of finding a vaccine appointment has ended. We are now in the phase where we can make a huge impact by speaking with vaccine-hesitant family and friends to help convince them of the importance of getting the vaccine...so I think this would be a new initiative that our ND Clubs can take on locally. I am so proud of Notre Dame's leadership figuring out how to open school safely and now making vaccines mandatory for enrollment, so I'm hoping the clubs can find ways to promote vaccination to local ND family members who are hesitant.
Is there anything else you'd like other clubs and senior alums to know?
Sometimes a lack of interest / participation can be frustrating for club leaders, but don't let it deter you from asking seniors if they need help. Even if you help one person or just remind your seniors that you care, you've made an impact.
Editor's Note - Thank you, Beth, for being a Force for Good when your senior alumni were in need. We think Ed Armento, Louisville’s Senior Alumni Coordinator, says it best: “The Club’s offers of help with scheduling and transportation were greatly appreciated by several of our older alumni. Beth's kind and compassionate offer of assistance resonates with all of us and reflects her Notre Dame pedigree. As a senior alumnus, it is an honor for me to look to her for motivation and leadership."