When Barbara Pinto was finally able to return to volunteering after the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to spend several months at home, she couldn’t help but sign up for more and more shifts.
Pinto, a retired nurse, administers vaccines at the COVID-19 vaccine clinics held at Stone Theatres in The Pointe at Barclay. She checks to see if there are any available volunteer slots as soon as she wakes up in the morning.
“I want to get in there before everybody else takes the spot,” she joked.
Pinto’s passion for volunteering had to be put on hold after COVID hit in March 2020 and NHRMC paused all volunteer efforts. Now, almost a year later, NHRMC has been able to restart some volunteer work, namely through volunteer shifts at COVID-19 vaccine clinics.
Being able to return to volunteering – and in a way that served so many people in the community – has been humbling and joyful, said Steve Hinderliter, who volunteers as a shuttle cart driver at the Pointe.
“People getting their vaccines are incredibly appreciative,” he said. “To be able to have the opportunity to get the vaccine relatively early in the whole process is a big deal for a lot of people.”
Both Pinto and Hinderliter had spent several years as NHRMC volunteers before the pandemic hit.
Pinto began volunteering in August 2018 after she retired from her nursing position in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina. She volunteered in the pediatric ICU, feeding, rocking, and bathing babies and sitting with children while their parents got a shower or picked up food.
Hinderliter has been volunteering since 2016 at Oleander Rehabilitation and with the AirLink/VitaLink Critical Care Transport team. At Oleander Rehabilitation, he helped check patients in, with a special focus on patients who had mobility issues. With the AirLink/VitaLink team, he swapped out ambulances at different service locations or drove to Garner to pick up new vehicles.
Volunteering at Vaccine Clinics
More than 200 people like Pinto and Hinderliter have contributed 3,293 volunteer hours at NHRMC’s vaccine clinics, said Erin Balzotti, director of volunteer and auxiliary services at NHRMC. Those volunteers are crucial to keep the clinics running, Balzotti said.
“The amount of hours it takes to make an initiative like this happen is monumental, and we simply would not be able to do it without our volunteers,” she said. “By having our volunteers support us at the vaccine clinics to try to help limit the spread of COVID, our employees are able to remain focused on caring for our patients and families.”
Some of those volunteers are like Pinto, retired healthcare professionals who are still drawn to use their skills to help their neighbors. Others are like Hinderliter. After he retired from a career in marketing in 2013, he wanted to “make a difference and do something that was helpful.”
His volunteer shifts as a shuttle cart driver at the Pointe are crucially helpful to get patients from their cars to the front doors of the theater or to direct them to a drive-up spot where they can receive the shot without leaving their vehicle.
He remembered one visitor who brought two elderly relatives with mobility challenges to receive their vaccines. Hinderliter, thinking of how hard it would be to help his own mom navigate without any assistance, immediately drove up and directed the group to a drive-up spot so they could stay in their car.
Hinderliter’s work is just one example of the efforts volunteers make to keep the clinic running smoothly. Runners deliver vaccines to tables around the theater; volunteers document patient information; and healthcare professionals administer the vaccines.
The combined efforts make for an incredibly efficient operation. Pinto remembered a patient from one of her first shifts who complimented by saying, “This is more organized than Chick-fil-a.”
The efficiency allows patients’ joy to shine through, Pinto said.
“The patients feel such gratitude to be getting this vaccine,” she said. “To finally get there and to be treated so promptly and so kindly in such a well-organized setting – it’s really an honor to be there and to be part of it.”
If you are a clinical professional with an active license in North Carolina and would like to volunteer to administer COVID-19 vaccines, sign up here.
NHRMC announces when new appointments are available when we have additional supplies of vaccines. The status will be at www.nhrmc.org/coronavirus.
NHRMC has an email list available for anyone to sign up to receive notifications when COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available. To sign up, visit: http://eepurl.com/hoG4r1.