Saturday, March 27, 2021

501 Vaccinated Friday at Pottstown Middle School

Photos by Evan Brandt
The hundreds of people with appointments to get COVID-19 vaccines line up outside Pottstown Middle School Friday evening.

Life-saving vaccines, 501 does of them, arrived in Pottstown Friday evening thanks to a joint effort by the NAACP of Pottstown and The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy of Boyertown.

"I've been calling everywhere, CVS, Rite-Aid and I couldn't get a shot," said Mary Bradshaw of Pottstown. 

Mary Bradshaw and Isiah Fields hold up their
vaccine cards after getting their shot Friday.
But when she stopped into the district office of state Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-146th Dist., to get a handicapped parking sticker for her brother, former Pottstown Police chief Jim Rodgers, his staff stepped in.

"I had heard about this through my church, Victory Christian Life Center, and when I told them in Ciresi's office, they said 'we're getting you signed up right now,'" Bradshaw said with a laugh.

She make sure to get Isiah Fields signed up as well. 

Friday evening, they both happily held up their cards indicating they had received the first of the two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine cycle.

Those vaccines came to Pottstown due, in part, to the efforts of Ted Josey, retired director of youth services for Montgomery county and a lifetime member of the Pottstown NAACP.

Ted Josey, right, pictured here with fellow NAACP 
member Sandy Bauers, helped organize Friday's
vaccinations at Pottstown Middle School
He was looking to get vaccines to be provided to his Lower Pottsgrove neighbors in the Spring Valley Farms over-50 housing development where he sits on the homeowners association. 

Personnel in the township building put him in touch with Ed Hudon, who runs The Medicine Shoppe in Boyertown.

After that success "I asked him if he would help get vaccines to the under-served people in Pottstown and he said to me 'it would  by my honor," Josey said.

Such was the need for vaccines in the Pottstown area that the appointments filled up in only seven hours, Josey said.

"So many older people are not computer savvy. I had one woman contact me and I asked if she had an email address and she said 'what's that?'" Josey recalled.

Ed Hudon, standing, is the owner of The Medicine
Shoppe in Boyertown. He was assisted preparing
vaccinations Friday by a team of professional nurses.
From right, they are Maryrose Donnelly,
Melinda Hoagey, 
Vivien Adeoye and Troy Nixon.
That's a familiar story to Hudon.

One reason he is able to provide roughly 3,000 vaccinations every weekend is that he's good at it. 

More specifically, he and his team of dedicated volunteers are good at finding the people who need it most and who may not be able to be up at midnight trolling their phone or computer for appointments.

He said it's the connections to their communities that allow local pharmacists like himself and Mayank Amin, a pharmacist and owner of Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville who oversaw the vaccination of 3,000 people at North Penn High School March 21, to be effective.

"We know who needs the vaccine most and the state has seen from our data that we are reaching the demographic they want reached," he explained.

"We have volunteers who reach out to them, and they can call toll-free and we'll get them signed up," said Hudon.

People stood by cones to ensure social distancing
Friday while awaiting vaccination at the middle school.
As a result, the state has provided a few select pharmacies, which have demonstrated how effective they are at providing vaccines to large numbers, as many doses as they can handle, Hudon said.

And handling a large number of people definitely seemed in Hudon's wheelhouse Friday.

The appointments in Pottstown were spaced out so the steady stream of people parking along and walking down North Franklin Street never became a crowd.

People were screened inside the middle school lobby along a line of tables, their temperatures taken and a few questions about their health posed.

As they entered the gymnasium, where Hudon and his team were assembling vaccine doses, they were steered to one of five socially-spaced lines that ended at one of five vaccination stations.

Linda and Mickey Hamilton of Gilbertsville
get ready to be vaccinated by Stacey Huntington.
Stacey Huntington was the volunteer nurse at one of those stations and she quickly and expertly vaccinated Jeanette Frederick, informed her of the possible effects she might feel and made sure she understood she needed to return in three weeks for the second dose.

Huntington did not blink when Gilbertsville couple Mickey and Linda Hamilton faced her. "Come one, I'll take you both at the same time," she said calmly.

One station over, Debbie Sparks seemed relieved when asked if a reporter could take her picture for the newspaper. "I'll look at you so I don't have to look at the needle," she said.

The shot was administered by Trish Stephan, a retired nurse and pharmacist who came out of retirement to volunteer during this world health emergency.

Debbie Sparks smiles beneath her mask as
Trish Stephan administers her shot.

If that sounds somewhat heroic, that's because it is.

And speaking of heroes, there were a few you might recognize present as well.

Decked out like it was a Halloween costume party, four volunteers donned superhero outfits in what seems to have become a theme with mass vaccination sites.

(They agreed to share their secret identities with me and I share them now with you so long as you don't tell anybody.)

Photo courtesy of Melinda Hoagey
Ricketts Community Center's trainer and wellness guru Paul Winterbottom was, of course, Superman. 

He joked that he wants people to know he has real muscles under the fake ones that come with the suit. I've met him before, and he's not lying.

Filling out this (almost) Justice League ensemble was Phil Mest as The Flash and Megan Luckett as Wonder Woman.

Apparently on loan from The Avengers and unseen under a Hulk mask was Kate Luckett. She showed up not only to lift spirits, but to get her own vaccination shot. (One wonders how a needle can penetrate gamma-irradiated skin that deflects bullets, but that's a question for another day.)

One thing is for sure, there was no shortage of heroes in Pottstown last night.

From left, Superman (Paul Winterbottom), Wonder Woman (Megan Luckett), The Flash (Phil Mest) and a recently vaccinated Hulk (Kate Luckett) were on hand Friday to lift spirits and support the vaccination effort.

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