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VacationDMV residents help elderly locals get vaccine appointments | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly

DMV residents help elderly locals get vaccine appointments | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly

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Some local residents are waking up early just to help older adults fill in their personal information on vaccine registration sites.

WASHINGTON — Some D.C. residents have helped the elderly register for coronavirus appointments, a task that can be hard for older people in communities across the United States who may struggle with technology.

It’s been widely impactful, and one D.C. local even took it a step further, gathering college students that are putting tech-savvy skills to good use for others. 

Others extending a helping hand to the elderly are fellow senior citizens in the community that figured out the online appointment process.

Currently, D.C. residents who are 65 and older and live in priority zip codes are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine in the District. But when Northwest D.C. resident Marideth Sandler, 69, first tried to schedule her appointment, she said she noticed the process required participants to act quickly.

“When I was doing it, it was clearly a matter of speed,” she said.

RELATED: COVID Blog: Virginia & Maryland lagging behind at getting second doses into arms

Sandler said a timer sat in a corner of her screen as she filled out her appointment registration. She said she knew spots for vaccine appointments were disappearing as she answered detailed questions.

“I had to figure out a strategy, right in the beginning,” she said.

Sandler said some of her friends had the same feelings. She said some even came to her with questions about how to navigate the appointment registration process.

“That’s when it kind of dawned on me,” she said. “This is something that I could do to help.”

Sandler decided to help other people her age sign up for vaccine appointments in the District.

She said she has helped seven people, so far, by getting up early in the morning and helping them plug their information into D.C.’s registration system before the available allotment of appointments disappears.

Sandler said she has specifically worked to help residents outside of Northwest D.C. She said she currently has commitments to help six other D.C. residents.

“I’m helping someone tomorrow who lives in Ward 7,” she said.

The Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, in Northwest D.C., has taken up a similar effort to help elderly residents in DC, Maryland, and Virginia get vaccine appointments.

Dava Schub, CEO of the Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, said one night she got an idea to enter a partnership with the George Washington University Hillel.

“It just seemed to me too cumbersome, too scary,” Schub said of the registration process. “Too many older folks were being left to their own devices to navigate a system where there were not enough vaccines to go around to meet the demand.”

Schub reached out to GWU Hillel Executive Director Adena Kirstein to devise a plan where students at the university would work to help older adults in the region secure vaccine appointments.

“I felt by doing something very small, we could have a very big impact,” she said. “If you connect one person to one person and get them through the process of getting a vaccine, they could have something that literally could save a life.”

According to Schub, 125 GWU students have enrolled to be volunteers in the effort, while another 400 older adults have asked to be matched with someone at the university. Schub said students have been able to get appointments for 42 people so far.

“Due to lock down measures, the past year has been an incredibly isolating time for most older D.C. residents,” said participating GWU student Jessica Squires. “The fact that this experience was being mirrored in the vaccine registration process- leaving vulnerable community members to fend for themselves- broke my heart. I was thrilled to be able to assist [people] in booking their vaccines.”

RELATED: 40% fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered to Montgomery County this week

GWU graduate student Tracey Katz also volunteered to be a part of the project. She works for a technology company.

“So, I feel like I have that little bit of expertise under my belt as well,” she said.

Katz received a thank you note from one of the people she helped here in the area.

“Knowing that I’m able to secure a spot for them is just so heartening to me, knowing that they can hug their loved ones just a little bit sooner,” she said.

Sandler said her efforts in helping people in need have been rewarding as well.

“It’s a gift to me,” she said. “Honest to God. It’s a gift.”

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