Volunteers essential in Tomah COVID vaccine distribution

Volunteers are playing a vital role in getting the COVID vaccine to eligible Monroe County residents.
 “The role of the volunteers is essential to getting as many people vaccinated as we can,” said Tomah Health employee health nurse Julie Anderson, MSN, RN. Anderson said about ten volunteers have been taking part in a COVID vaccine clinic at Tomah Health for the last month. “We have been really lucky. We have retired nurses with thirty and forty years of experience, along with a couple of physicians that have been helping out. It’s been wonderful. They are fabulous,” Anderson said.
Retired Mayo Clinic Registered Nurse Pat Wall from Sparta and retired Gundersen Health System Dr. Mike Pace, also from Sparta, have been part of the volunteer group at Tomah Health.
“This is a really important cause,” said Wall, a registered nurse for 39 years. “People are gracious, grateful and tickled to get it (vaccine),” Wall said.
“I’m really enjoying working here,” said Dr. Mike Pace a family practice physician at the Gundersen Health System Clinic in Sparta for 33 years. “I get to see some of the people that I took care of over the years. I really enjoy the interaction with the people that are really grateful for what’s happening and are happy to be here. It’s nice to be part of a scientific effort to end such a devastating problem.”
Former Monroe County Health Department Director Sharon Nelson and former Monroe County Health Dept. assistant director Pam Rainwater have also been volunteering time at the clinic. “When I retired, Sharon (Nelson) and I both mentioned that we would certainly be willing to volunteer our time,” said Rainwater who retired last November after 36 years with the health dept. “There was no hesitation about helping out; this is a wonderful cause and to be part of this is very rewarding.”
Nelson said volunteering has been part of her family and something she wanted always wanted to do. “I’ve always wanted to give back to the community, so that’s what I intended to do even upon retirement…COVID or no COVID,” said Nelson who also retired from the county health department in November after 44 years of service. “As a volunteer, this is so rewarding because people are so grateful and thankful.”
Nelson, Rainwater, Wall and Pace all agree that the benefit of the vaccine outweighs the risk.
“Science shows that vaccines do a really remarkable job, and the science for COVID-19 shows that the vaccine is really going to be the thing that is going to allow us to end this pandemic and get back to a regular life and be healthy,” Pace said. “It is so important for public health.”
“This is well worth minor aches or an inconvenience of taking an extra nap,” Wall said with a smile. “It really is well worth the comfort and security of knowing that you are going to be safer.” 
“I’ve seen people cry and have tears in their eyes,” Nelson added. “They see this as a sign of hope for the future and are so appreciative.”
The four also had high praised for Julie Anderson who has coordinated the vaccine clinic at Tomah Health. “Julie Anderson is doing a magnificent job running this place,” Pace added.
Anderson said while they are “pretty well set” for volunteers in Tomah, anyone interested in being a volunteer should contact the Monroe County Health Dept., at 608-269-8666 and ask for Katie. Volunteers are also asked to register with the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry (WEAVR) at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/preparedness/weavr/index.htm

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