By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - Nebraska
SCHUYLER, Nebraska — Communities across Nebraska are banding together in response to the COVID-19 health emergency, and volunteers have become critical for distributing vaccines.
Alejandrina Lanuza, community organizer associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, is helping residents in Schuyler overcome any language barriers at the town's weekly vaccine clinic.
She said nonprofit organizations are uniquely positioned to help these kinds of emergency operations succeed.
"As nonprofits, we know the needs that our community have, and we have those connections," Lanuza explained. "We have a real connection with people, and people trust us."
Schuyler's Thursday clinic has been staffed largely by volunteers, who greet residents and help them get registered. Volunteers also sit with folks after they get their shots until they've been cleared by medical staff.
Lanuza noted it has taken a "village-wide" effort to pull off the clinic's logistics, and local businesses have stepped up by providing free meals and recruiting volunteers.
The meatpacking industry has brought workers from across the globe to Schuyler, where some 36 different languages are spoken in a town of just over 6,000 residents.
Michelle Evert, deputy emergency manager for Colfax County, said the clinic is able to tap interpreters through a network created by Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska.
"When they come in, I take them off to the side, and we call that interpreter," Evert outlined. "We fill out the form together, and the interpreter stays on the phone with us all the way until they get their shot."
Lanuza pointed out clinics across the state still are in need of volunteers, and she encouraged people to contact their local public health department if they can contribute some time.
Lanuza added for those who can't volunteer, promoting public health can be as simple as telling people about your experience.
"If you already got vaccinated, share your experiences with your friends and family," Lanuza urged. "Because sometimes when you know someone who gets it, and nothing happens, that invites other people to get vaccinated as well."