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Delivering more than smiles

Suffolk Meals on Wheels prides itself on delivering more than just meals. This spring, it went beyond bringing smiles, too.

In March and April, Suffolk Meals on Wheels teamed up with Suffolk Fire & Rescue to give both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 23 homebound Meals on Wheels clients.

It started when Angelica Yankauskas, the executive director at Suffolk Meals in Wheels, saw a similar partnership happening in Texas. Knowing that many of the seniors the program regularly delivers meals to have access hurdles as well to get the vaccine, she wanted to do something too.

“The biggest barrier I saw was that not only couldn’t these people get out, but most of the communication was electronic,” said Yankauskas. “The appointments are communicated through email and texts that the seniors were never getting.”

Yankauskas reached out to Suffolk Fire & Rescue and created a partnership to get the vaccine to the most vulnerable.

“This was an extremely heartwarming experience,” said Deputy Chief Brian Spicer, Suffolk Fire & Rescue Technical Services. “Honestly, I don’t know who benefited more, as our staff was overwhelmed with the gratitude expressed by these seniors. We enjoyed spending this special time with them, particularly since many are homebound and miss the social interaction.”

The Bayview Physicians Group provided the vaccines for this partnership. The first dose was administered on March 24, and the team went back out to give the second dose on April 15.

“They were overjoyed,” said Yankauskas. “One client had gotten the vaccine, but his wife is bedridden and couldn’t get it. He was terrified because caretakers would come, and she wasn’t vaccinated yet. He was so relieved that she is protected now.”

This partnership also helped the members of Suffolk Fire & Rescue make positive relations with community members that they usually see on their worst days. Waiting 15 minutes after administering the vaccine gave an opportunity for positive interactions.

“This was great community building and built trust and relationships,” said Yankauskas. “I am so grateful for this partnership. I hope this leads to other programs to address needs in the Suffolk community and continue to build that trust.”