More than 120 Huskers stepped up this week, answering the call to assist the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department with three days of COVID-19 vaccine clinics at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The volunteers — representing units from across the University of Nebraska–Lincoln — helped guide drivers to parking spaces and helped persons with disabilities to access the clinics on April 7-9. During each of two shifts offered daily, up to 21 Huskers worked as volunteers, all part of a broader push to inoculate some 40,000 Lincoln and Lancaster County residents this week.
“This is an incredible opportunity to support our community and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department,” said Veronica Riepe, director of Student Involvement. “It’s thrilling to be here, and I’m happy to keep doing it if the need arises.”
Nebraska’s Jessie Brophy, director of external engagement and events for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, worked nearby, helping direct traffic near the entrance for individuals with disabilities. She mirrored Riepe’ sentiment, savoring an opportunity to support the vaccine effort.
“I’m extremely thankful to have already received the vaccine and this is an opportunity to help others, to protect a greater portion of our community,” Brophy said. “It’s the right thing to do — exactly what Huskers do when the opportunity arises.”
When the call for volunteers went out in Nebraska Today on March 31, Huskers responded. And, within a few hours, Julie Kroese’s email inbox was flooded with more than 150 emails each requesting details on how to assist with the clinics.
“The outpouring of support from our community was simply incredible,” said the administrative coordinator within the Office of the Chancellor. “We ended up with nearly 120 volunteers, which was almost double of our initial goal.
“That desire to help speaks volumes about the engagement of our campus community as a whole. Helping organize the effort has made me extremely proud and inspired.”
Amy Dirks, an environmental health specialist with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department said support from community volunteers has been essential to the success realized in the community vaccine effort.
“We simply could not do this without volunteers from the university, other organizations and the community,” Dirks said. “We are very thankful for the support because their help has been and will continue to be essential to the success or our vaccination clinics.”
While he guarded parking spaces for volunteers along Pinnacle Arena Drive in the rainy, spring-day chill on April 7, David Strange said he was inspired by the projected number of vaccines planned for the week.
“They told us there would be around 40,000 vaccines given by the end of this week,” said Strange, an events associate with the Office of Admissions. “I thought that sounded pretty cool, like a really great step that would help us as a community continue moving back to normal.”
Noah Schwendeman, a student support specialist with Husker Hub agreed.
“I’m just here directing traffic for about seven hours,” Schwendeman said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is — in some small way — supporting the vaccine effort and helping us move forward so we can get back to having things like live music concerts.”
The university is providing administrative leave for every employee who assists with the vaccine clinics. Nathan Meier, assistant vice chancellor for research, said the opportunity (including support from university leaders) reminded him of the campus response to assist with the tornado that hit Hallam, Nebraska, in 2004.
“This felt like a real opportunity to support our community, just like the volunteer effort at Hallam,” Meier said. “Showing compassion, coming together to help neighbors is part of our DNA. That’s who we are. It’s just part of being a Husker.”