PICTURE THE HUB: GIVING TIME
vaccination registration project
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
I am a local Bergen County educator who teaches computer science. In order to do well in my career I need to be quick on the computer, particularly typing fast and knowing keyboard shortcuts to execute tasks. These technology skills combined with my genuine fulfillment of helping others, allowed me to schedule over 500 vaccine appointments for those in need.
The project wasn’t formal or planned but organically just… happened. At first, I was able to schedule vaccine appointments very early for my elderly relatives. I thought to myself…Who else needs help? Before I knew it, I had an ongoing spreadsheet of friends, family, and friends of family… some people I knew, most people I didn't know – it didn't matter. I was able to grasp the process quickly, schedule appointments, and most importantly, help others.
From January through April of 2021, the appointments slowly became available, mostly in the middle of the night. I would collect the information of those who needed appointments during the day, and every night, like seven days a week, I would schedule appointments. My family would be asleep and I would be typing away. Utilizing autofill and copying & pasting, my goal was to schedule 10 appointments per night. As I was able to scoop up the appointments, I would email the confirmations and often call the next day to ensure they received the information.
I was personally motivated since my father was hospitalized with COVID very early in the pandemic in March of 2020. My family was scared and unsure if he would pull through. Thank goodness he made a full recovery after 13 days in the ICU. Whenever I stayed up late to book appointments, I thought of senior citizens, like my father, and the gift of helping them receive this extra layer of protection through the vaccine. This narrative pushed me to function on 4 hours of sleep! I knew my exhaustion was temporary and the end goal of giving others the gift of peace from this awful virus was worthwhile.
A few people needed more help besides scheduling the appointment, such as transportation or navigating the vaccination system once there. I became very familiar with the mega-site at the Meadowlands and would often drive there after work to meet people who needed help. One day a professor from California called me, who was a professional colleague of a friend, to see if I could help schedule vaccine appointments for her two elderly parents in their 90’s. I was able to book their appointments soon after the call. The next day, the elderly parents drove to the Meadowlands and upon seeing the intense long lines and crowds, their anxieties were heightened. They called their daughter, who called me. I met them soon after, channeled my inner go-getter Jersey mindset, and did what it took to help them.
Particularly in Westwood, I was fortunate to be contacted by Councilwoman Hodges to assist with our town vaccination efforts, by calling local seniors and scheduling appointments for our local hospital. It was great to volunteer with a team from our town and assist those eager for the protection. I was also humbled and pleased that Councilwoman Hodges proactively knew to contact me to serve.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt very helpless – what can I do to help - I wasn't in the frontlines. I wasn't working at the grocery stores. I wasn't a brave healthcare worker. When this opportunity came up I knew this was my contribution. I think when it comes to volunteer work, it doesn’t have to be complicated. For my “project” it didn’t involve a committee. It wasn’t a big formal event. It didn’t involve any money at all. All it takes is dedication to a series of small efforts, which combined add up to make a difference. I always tell my children that people show love with time. To truly love your neighbor and the stranger is to give them your time. This was my way of showing this community my love.
TO DONATE TO CELEBRATE WESTWOOD FOLLOW THIS LINK: GIVING TIME