Retired volunteers are key soldiers in Springfield’s army of COVID-19 fighters

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – It took a lot of people and a monumental effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what many of us may not realize is that some of the greatest unsung heroes of this effort are retirees, many from the healthcare industry, who volunteer their time to do everything. from contact tracing to running vaccination clinics.

From her office on the ninth floor of the Cox North Tower above Springfield, Cindy Kunkel is a contact tracer with the Springfield-Greene Co. Health Department who worked for 30 years for the Food and Drug Administration in Kansas City before retire to Springfield.

“It seemed ironic to me that I retired just a few months before the biggest public health event in the last hundred years,” she said of the timing. “I watched a lot of my friends who were still working answer them and get sent to work on the pandemic and I just hated to sit and watch them. I wanted to see a way where I could help too.

So instead of enjoying a life of leisure, she’s busy contacting COVID-19 patients to find out who they’ve been in contact with.

It involves a lot of phone calls and data collection, which doesn’t seem like a way to relax.

“Well, I haven’t been retired for too long, so I was told I failed,” she said with a laugh. “Some friends told me I didn’t do it right because I came back right away. But I’m happy to come back and help. I know it is a short term thing even though it has turned into several months.

Meanwhile, at South Street Christian Church on Thursday, a vaccination clinic was being held and most of the volunteers were also retirees.

There are three areas where people are needed in a clinic: registration, injections, and the 15 minute observation period that follows.

This event was hosted by the Jordan Valley Community Health Clinic, where approximately 25 retirees are ready to serve on short notice.

So what would they do if they weren’t running a vaccination clinic?

“Sitting at home,” said Steve Gardner, a retired minister.

“Go to a game of bingo in Sertoma,” said Scott Chappell, who retired from 3M.

Instead, they dominated the observation area where they time the vaccinees to make sure they didn’t have an adverse reaction.

Chappell pointed out that most of the retirees in attendance were also volunteering in other organizations.

“It’s an amazing group because there is a lot of volunteerism in this group,” he said. “It’s something that keeps you active. To be honest, when we hope to get everyone vaccinated, I don’t know what I’ll do. ”

“Staying active in retirement is important to me,” Gardner admitted. “I don’t want to just vegetate.

Husband and wife Gene Davison and Linda Halford are also active in many volunteer efforts. As a retired nurse, Halford believes many healthcare workers had it in their DNA to answer the call to fight COVID-19.

“We did this out of commitment to our profession,” she said.

“We were like everyone else when COVID first hit,” Davison added. “We were scared. We didn’t know. But we also knew it was devastating our communities and people needed to step up and fight COVID so that we could eventually get back to what could be the new normal.”

“I think every healthcare organization in Springfield has benefited from this wealth of knowledge and experience from retirement to help fight this pandemic,” said Aaron Schekorra, County Public Health Information Administrator. of Springfield-Greene. “I’m not sure we could have accomplished what we did without them.”

“We would be in trouble,” agreed Bob Stephens, a former mayor of Springfield who coordinates the COVID-19 mobile vaccination unit which is a partnership between the Department of Health, Jordan Valley and the Greene County Medical Society. “I don’t know if I could find people who could go out at any time like these people do. They do a great job because most of them have spent their lives working and know what it’s like to show up on time and fill out paperwork. And that’s basically what they have to do here, because this is a federal program and they are watching it very closely.

But while these volunteers all give of their time to help save lives, some of them are frustrated that others are not doing their part to save lives because they choose not to be vaccinated.

“We have the vaccine. We have the donors. And no one is coming, ”Halford said with a sigh. “It’s disappointing.”

“Some people just won’t accept that there is a greater good that can be achieved by getting vaccinated,” Davison added. “I understand that people are hesitant, but we have to look at the big picture. The selfishness of people who are not doing what they can to help us end this pandemic when we know what will end the pandemic and just the denial that there is even a pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans and is filling our hospitals as we speak. It is very disheartening that people are so hard on their fellow human beings.

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