Odessans show up in big wayVaccine effort helped by locals who are pitching in

The combined efforts of the City of Odessa and Medical Center Hospital this week resulted in more than 6,000 COVID-19 vaccines being administered at Ratliff Stadium during a mass clinic.

That impressive number is fueled by not only those city and MCH workers but also by a volunteer force of Odessans.

The mass vaccination effort has allowed Permian Basin residents to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Helping to make sure that everything goes as smooth as possible has not only been the MCH staff, city workers, Odessa Police along with paramedics and Fire & Rescue but also countless volunteers.

MCH Director of Public Relations Trevor Tankersley said the clinic continues Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (gate shuts at 2 p.m.) and that the volunteers have made a huge difference.

“We want to give a massive thank you to all who have volunteered their time so far out at the stadium,” Tankersley said in an email.

The vaccination effort, which started Sunday, has had more than 120 volunteers each day.

“It’s been great,” Volunteer Resource Coordinator Austin Yocham said. “We’ve had a great showing in our volunteers. We’re upwards of about 120 a day. We’re keeping them fed and plugging them in. we have volunteers used for on the nonmedical side like flagging, traffic control. We have some clinical volunteers, paramedics, nurses and even some doctors. They’re helping out with assisting our paramedics in tents giving vaccinations.”

The jobs volunteers at the Ratliff Stadium parking lot have been doing include directing traffic to help people get in their correct lanes to receive the vaccine, to getting the correct information from people including birthdates.

“Nonclinical, we’ll put them in traffic and getting our cars moving to the right lanes that they need to,” Yocham said. “Clinical personnel, they can assist with vaccinations and helping out with the paper work and band aids.”

Among the 120 volunteers on Wednesday included Odessa resident Nancy Parra who was on her first day of volunteering who said she would be back for today’s effort.

“This is my vacation week,” Parra said. “I did not realize that I could volunteer until about two days ago. Then I put my application in so that they could use me wherever they wanted.”

Parra works at Midland Memorial Health as a surgical technologist.

She says working in her field is one of the biggest reasons that she came out to volunteer.

“I’ve been in the medical world for almost 15 years and I just enjoy it,” Parra said. “I enjoy helping people. I don’t mind volunteering. I’ve done it before just never for the pandemic. I had the vacation week off and thought ‘well, why not?’”

Her job has also helped her gain the right training that’s needed in a vaccination effort.

“I know how to help out with patients and understand when they’re afraid and answer questions. If I don’t know, I make sure to get the right answer,” Parra said.

Parra’s job on Wednesday was to go from car to car getting information that’s needed.

“I was the runner,” Parra said. “I was collecting names and birthdates so they could enter it into the computer before they got their injections.”

All in all, her first day volunteering went well.

“It was pretty good,” Parra said. “I learned how to spell out names and met a lot of interesting people. I will be paired up with a paramedic so that they can give the injection and I’ll take the information from the patient,” Parra said.

Another volunteer was Midland resident Jolynn Gray, who helped direct traffic inside the parking lot at Ratliff Stadium.

For her, volunteering in the community has always been important.

“I think this is a great cause,” Gray said. “I hope everyone gets vaccinated. I just like to support what’s going on in the community.”

Wednesday was Gray’s second day volunteering, arriving at around 7:30 a.m. and staying until around 2:30 p.m.

Gray wasn’t alone as she came in a group, with two of her friends also volunteering.

“We’re always volunteering,” Gray said. “My friend got an email and then she called me about volunteering and we signed up.”

One thing Parra and Gray have noticed is the laid back attitude from people waiting in the long line to receive their vaccination.

“It’s been very friendly,” Parra said. “Everybody’s been friendly from people getting it to this side of it. Everyone has been great.”

Gray echoed those thoughts.

“Everyone’s been really nice and they’ve been really grateful,” Gray said. “It’s really fun. People are pretty good. Being at the end, I get a lot of thank-you’s and waves. It’s been fantastic. I think people are really excited to have this opportunity to come here and do it.”

Yocham had nothing but praise for those who have helped out this week.

“Without our volunteers, we couldn’t operate,” Yocham said.

Yocham said that every day, about 120 volunteers are needed including next week. 

Next week’s vaccination days are not yet decided but likely will be mid to late week at Ratliff Stadium.

Parra says she hopes to come back to help out in the upcoming weeks.

“I’m hoping that if they have more the next week, I’ll come back every Wednesday,” Parra said.

Those who are interested in volunteering can send an email to volunteers@odessatx.gov.