MONTVILLE, NJ – What started as finding a vaccine appointment for a loved one or two has grown into a group of volunteers in Montville finding large numbers of appointments for residents as the Montville Moms Vaccine Schedulers.
Lead schedulers Karen Bush and Robin Brickman had elderly family who were having trouble getting vaccine appointments, so they took on the task themselves. When the number of people who asked them for help grew, the group was born.
“Through a couple of Facebook groups, I learned some tips and tricks, so I could get through fast,” Bush said. “Once I got appointments for family, I put it onto Montville Moms Facebook group and two days later Robin reached out to me to say that she had been doing it too, which was great because by that time, I had about a dozen people asking me and I was feeling a little bit of pressure.”
“The system is very difficult for seniors,” Brickman said. “They don’t have smartphones and they don’t understand technology. If they try to call pharmacies, everyone tells them something different. It’s very confusing. This is hard for them.”
Bush described the system of having several screens going simultaneously and knowing when certain stores are “dropping” appointments – that means releasing times.
“You have to know which stores drop at which times,” she said. “I keep refreshing my screens all day long. I work from home so I can do that. But not everybody can.”
Right now the group, composed of Tiffany Anghel, Cheryl Bernstein, Abby Crane, Lisa Focaccia, Susan Geffner, Jessica Lopez, Lisa Marotto, Kelly Meadows, Smruti Sheth, Denise Thierwechter, Barbara Tsukroff and Karen Vielee, is helping 75-year-olds and up mostly, but also underlying illness cases and special needs, and as the rules change, they will help more age groups.
Roberta Ginsberg joined the group and now acts as a contact point and coordinator for the schedulers, so they can focus on scheduling. Further, she wanted to stress that the group doesn’t help people “jump the line,” but follows the rules of eligibility.
“The schedulers are working very hard, though – some working as early as 5 or 6 a.m., and some late at night like midnight,” Ginsberg said. It typically takes 24 to 48 hours to schedule an appointment, Bush said, and the group has booked more than 270 in just a short time.
Flexibility is key, of course.
“If people are willing to travel, and the day of the week is flexible, we can get them in much faster,” Ginsberg said. “We’ve placed appointments as far as Atlantic City. But we can’t call people and say ‘Are you available Thursday at 9 a.m.?’ The system works too fast for that.”
For their efforts, local business Village Market even rewarded the group with dinner, which the schedulers really appreciated, she said. Individuals across Montville have also expressed their gratitude for the group.
Erin Dean’s family was nothing but smiles when they found out that after weeks of trying to get an underlying condition appointment for her husband, the group got one in 24 hours.
“We tried for weeks to get him an appointment with no luck,” she said. “We reached out and in less than 24 hours they did what had been impossible. The smiles on our kids' faces when we told them their dad is finally going to get the vaccine, were priceless. It was a joyful morning in our house. This incredible team of Montville residents truly represents our town at its absolute best, the great power of strong community spirit, and a kindness that is truly inspiring. They've given our family hope at the end of a very dark year. To this entire group of angels in our community working so hard to get appointments for the most vulnerable at this time, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!!!”
Jim O’Dowd reached out to Ginsberg after seeing her social media post.
“We run the school busses in town and Roberta has helped us schedule about a dozen of our drivers and staff. I really can’t say enough about how easy and helpful she was. If you need help getting an appointment, please reach out. I am happy to report that most of our drivers and staff have been or are scheduled to be vaccinated. Thank you!!!!!”
Both Bush and Brickman said that that was their favorite part of volunteering to get the appointments – receiving the photos of the “I’ve been vaccinated” stickers and the looks of happiness on people’s faces after they get their shots. Many have called the group’s members “angels.”
“It’s nice to see something good coming from the pandemic – people helping people,” Brickman said. “It’s been really rewarding. I’ve enjoyed some of the notes I’ve received – it makes it all worth it because it helps the community. It’s a stressful time for everybody. But all of the schedulers deserve credit – we’ll tell each other ‘Quick go here [to this website]! Quick go there!’ Everybody’s pulling together.”
To receive help obtaining a vaccine appointment, send a Facebook Instant Message via Messenger to Roberta Ginsberg with the following information:
Are you willing to travel?
Vaccination Appointment Assistance Note: If you limit yourself to one area, you risk taking much longer for us to find you an appointment. There are also no guarantees of location sites, types of vaccines, dates, timing or appointments with loved ones.
We ask that you not be working with anyone else because if our schedulers spend time trying to book for you and then you don't take the appointment, we have wasted precious time that could have helped someone else. Hope you understand.
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