It’s not every day vaccine center workers get thanked for what they do, but on April 5, Berlin Junior Girl Scout Troop 30043 did just that.
The troop delivered more than 250 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the National Guard and other staff at the Burlington County COVID site in the Moorestown Mall. The event was coordinated by Virtua paramedic Michael Somers and troop leader Wende Nachman.
“Most of the cookies and money to buy the cookies were donated by local residents,” Nachman explained. “People often donate money at cookie booths and probably wonder where it goes.
“This is a great example of Girl Scouts giving back through community-service projects.”
Somers knew that Girl Scouts typically offer cookies to the military, so he sought a donation for National Guard members who’ve been stationed at the vaccination mega site since January. Nachman agreed, and her troop spent the past two and a half months collecting donations for the cause.
Nachman reflected that while she didn’t have many interactions with Somers, he was the troop’s hero in 2019.
“He was a stranger who came to our rescue and we were so happy to team up with him again for these cookie donations,” she added.
The troop’s trailer rental fell through during Berlin’s 4th of July parade in 2019, and when Nachman asked if anyone had a replacement, Somers contacted her within the hour.
Vaccination eligibility was only recently expanded to anyone over the age of 16, but the Burlington County COVID site has been open since January 2021 to give vaccines to anyone who lives, works or is receiving an education in New Jersey. People from other counties can also schedule appointments there.
The site is a team effort coordinated by the state, its department of health, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, the Community Emergency Response Team, the Medical Reserve Corps, the National Guard, Burlington County and Virtua Health.
It has taken everybody to keep the site running as smoothly as it does. Virtua doctors, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists administer the vaccine, and National Guard and non-medical personnel support all other aspects of the vaccine site by checking IDs, registering people, scheduling appointments and guiding and directing people to where they need to go.
Virtua media relations spokesperson Daniel Moise said at its beginning, the Burlington site was only vaccinating a couple thousand people a week, given that vaccines were yet to be widely available and fewer people were eligible. The site now provides shots to about 4,000 to 5,000 people a day, seven days a week. Those who receive a first shot of the Pfizer vaccine are scheduled for a second three weeks later.
Despite the long hours, Moise said it’s been “a taxing but rewarding experience.”
“We’re not just tending to the sick, but we’re preventing people from getting sick in the first place by offering them the protection of vaccines,” he explained. “One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed when I volunteer in the vaccination area is to see the responses that people have. I have seen people start to cry with relief that they’ve finally been vaccinated. I’ve seen people stand up and start to cheer, like they’re at a sporting event. I’ve seen people dance to and from the vaccine chair …
“It really feels like something special.”
The Burlington County COVID site is one of many in New Jersey open for vaccinations. To schedule an appointment at the Burlington site, visit https://www.virtua.org/services/covid19-vaccine-info. To schedule an appointment at the Camden County Vaccine Center, visit https://www.camdencounty.com/vaccineregistration/. For more information on the COVID vaccines and eligibility in New Jersey, visit https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/vaccine.