PATERSON, NJ - Hampered only by a lack of supply of the much-sought after shots, Paterson’s efforts have led to more than 10,000 people being administered vaccinations against COVID-19, Mayor Andre Sayegh announced Thursday.
Joining Sayegh for the press conference at Paterson’s International High School, now serving as a vaccination center, were more than a dozen local clergywomen who said they were there not only to get inoculated themselves, but to encourage others to do so also.
“The clergy are trusted messengers of the community,” Sayegh, who has shared his concern that some communities have been underrepresented in the overall distribution, declared. “We want people to get their vaccination and get back to church.”
“Both me and my wife contracted the virus,” Rev. James. D. Kuykendall of Agape Christian Ministries and who spoke on behalf of the group said. “But this is the day that the Lord has made. We were supported through prayer by people in New Jersey, the Tri-State Area, and around the nation. We are survivors but also conquerors.”
Kuykendall urged others to follow the example of the ministers.
“You need to respond. Everything is in place,” Kuykendall admonished. “All you have to do is come here. Getting the shot will help save lives.”
As he observed people registering and waiting in lines, appropriately spaced, to be vaccinated, Rev. Wayne Brown said that the pandemic has forced more people to reach out for help. “COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in this community,” Brown, who also echoed the sentiments of his colleagues, stated.
Brown is the founder and executive director of Community Outreach Services, Inc., located at 199 North 6th Street. The non-profit organization’s food pantry has given out thousands of food items, providing meals for those in need over the course of the pandemic.
Also joining the clergy members was former Paterson Mayor Pat Kramer who, just days after celebrating his 88th birthday praised the vaccination effort saying when he got his shot two weeks ago everything “went very smoothly.”
“I think the mayor has done a fantastic job with a tough problem,” he said of his successor.
The vaccination site, which Sayegh has continually implored federal and state officials to send more doses to, while managed by the Paterson Department of Health and Human Services, is powered by volunteers, including those from The Medical Reserve Corps of Paterson, coordinated by Tabitha Mealey.
These volunteers number up to 10 on distributions days, and include Mark Fischer, an employee with the Paterson Board of Education and the CEO of the Silk City Sharks semi-professional football team.
“They are trained and drilled to respond to emergencies,” Mealey said. “We want to be ready to help whenever we are needed.”
Referring to the text of the Bible 5th Ward Councilman Luis Velez said the action of the clergy fulfilled the directive of the first century Apostle James who stressed that true faith will always be demonstrated by good works, his colleague, 4th Ward Councilman Ruby Cotton said she was encouraged by the presence of the spiritual leaders.
“The pastors believe that the more people that get the vaccination, the less that coronavirus will spread,” Cotton commented.
Other flock shepherds that were on hand included: Rev. Michael D. McDuffie of the Mighty Sons of God Fellowship; Rev. Joseph Moore of Resurrection Kingdom Ministries; John Algera, the former pastor of Madison Avenue Christian Reformed Church; Rev. James Salmon, pastor of New Christian Missionary Baptist Church and Chaplain at the Passaic County Jail; and Rev. William Cash of the Life Changing Word Church International.
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