The parking lot at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center was full all day Saturday as hundreds of local agricultural workers came to the pop-up vaccination site.
Hundreds of local agricultural workers were able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 Saturday thanks to the efforts of Walgreens and the nonprofit group Colectivo Arbol.
Walgreens and Colectivo Arbol set up shop at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center Saturday morning and prepared for the onslaught of arrivals. It was a whirlwind process. Isaret Jeffers, vice president of Colectivo Arbol, said the group has worked with Walgreens multiple times over the years to help bring flu shots to local farm workers. She reached out several months ago to express their need for the vaccine in that community, but there weren’t enough available to make it work.
“Last Friday, that night they called and said they had 400 vaccines for us,” Jeffers said. “It all happened so fast. They said they had them, but they had to use them sometime in the next week. It was perfect. But we had to get this all figured out so quickly. So we started to reach out to the people we know at local farms, to the rancheros and owners of the farms. We were able to get the word spread pretty quickly and the people here at the community center, well, they offered this perfect location for us. It’s just been a great experience and we are so thankful to Julie (Garretson) with the community center and Walgreens and my team.”
Though they had a short window, Jeffers was right in thinking the word quickly spread throughout the farming community. Colectivo Arbol’s great reputation with local farmers helped appease many of the fears and hesitations some had regarding the vaccine. They’ve been in the community for years bringing food, accessories, education and lawyers to help with a variety of needs that have risen as time has passed. Since the pandemic started, the group has implemented a variety of clinics and offered counseling for those in need.
Jeffers and her team are not only well-known, they’re trusted. And when they said Walgreens was offering this great opportunity, most simply asked “What time should we come?”
The majority of the workers and their families arrived in waves. There was an early morning rush and approximately 150 people came by noon to get their vaccine.
Then the buses arrived. Walgreens had approximately 400 vaccines available on a first-come, first-serve basis. All of the doses were distributed by 3:30 p.m. Colectivo Arbol is now in talks with Walgreens to see if they can set up a second round of doses in the near future.
The shots were the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which only needs one dose rather than the two shots the other major vaccines require. A line formed outside the community center’s doors approximately an hour before they officially opened Saturday morning and wrapped down the sidewalk during the lunchtime rush as people patiently waited for their chance at receiving the vaccine.
The vaccinations were only available to farm and industry workers and their immediate families.
“Farmers are hard workers,” Jeffers said. “It’s something that is so important, especially in this community, and they often get overlooked. But think about everything they do for this community. Without them we would not have food on our tables. And when you think about the issues they are facing, it really makes you realize how important this is. People can sign up and go other places to get their vaccines, but for many of these workers that isn’t an option. So they’re in a tough place. Walgreens has helped remove that issue for them and the commitment they’ve made to these workers is not something any of us are going to forget.”