Guest post by Rosemary Alpert, Skagit Valley Family YMCA
For many, the first step in their COVID-19 experience is driving to the testing site, now located at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. You are greeted by a staff member or volunteer, asked a few questions, then directed to the queue, like waiting for a ferry. Upon entering the barn, with your car window cracked, you are greeting by another staff member or volunteer to register you for the test. After, a nurse greets you with important information and directions for taking the test. The journey has begun, with hopes to receive a text in a few days with the singular word, “Negative.”
As this unprecedented and challenging year comes to a welcome close, I never would have imagined my job as Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator for Skagit Valley Family YMCA would evolve into one of the most important experiences of my life: registering community members to get tested for COVID-19.
Early on during the pandemic, Skagit County Public Health collaborated with the Y to support two full-time employees from the Y to work at the testing site. Over these past nine months, community collaborations have been created. A team of dedicated staff and volunteers have been working on the frontlines tirelessly through summer heat, high winds, bitter cold, sideways rain and ongoing challenges, day after day. These are the faces you see through your car windows: community members wholeheartedly supporting Skagit County.
In early June, I started splitting my time between the Y and the COVID-19 testing site, registering community members at Skagit Valley College. Then, mid-September, I became full time at the testing site, putting my job at the Y on hold for the time. So many stories, reasons why people come through to get tested, are heartful and sometimes heartbreaking. Eyes to eyes, deeply listening, with respect and compassion. Dedicated coworkers and impeccable leadership keep our team fluid and flexible each day. They’re a privilege to work alongside.
Last week, this group photograph was taken of our COVID-19 Testing Site team of staff and volunteers. In addition to registration, I was asked to contribute to the Skagit Health Connection weekly blog. This first blog is dedicated to the incredible group of testing site workers. I asked a few to share their thoughts about working at the testing site, what are they grateful for, an experience, or possibly an unexpected gift because of this time. Here are a few of the responses…
“I am grateful for getting the opportunity to work at the site and help our community get through this pandemic. And meeting all the amazing people who I work with.”
“I’m grateful for being part of such an amazing team and being able to give back to our community. It’s honestly a rewarding job. You definitely learn how to communicate with so many different people. And being able to provide service for all, even those with a language barrier.”
“I am grateful to be working at the site because seeing the relief on the faces of the people that go to get tested once they have been helped honestly lights up my day. Being able to provide the reassurance to the people. And unexpected gift I have got from working at the testing site is the ability to interact more with the people in my community and the opportunity I have been given to help better the community.”
“Working here reminds me that people are kind. Folks wait an hour or more, often in bad weather, sometimes with kids and dogs in the car. All this stuff is scary and frustrating; but people are unfailingly kind, mostly patient, and always ready to share a (masked) smile. This is my best medicine for these times. (And staff and volunteers are wonderful!)”
“I think I’m most amazed by the 200 volunteers who provided an estimated 12,000 hours of their time. In the rain, snow, smoke, wind and blistering heat, they are there!”
“Each car is an opportunity to connect with our community, offering a little comfort, reassurance and hope. We keep our community moving forward during these challenging times. I’m grateful for the tiny moments of connection, whether it be the little girl who noticed the twinkling lights or the great-grandma wanting to visit her 16th great-grandchild. I didn’t expect to become a part of an elite team of community rock stars! Grateful for the opportunity to share a little light and serve our community.”
As we wrap up 2020, let’s keep moving forward, find the moments of gratitude. Be vigilant, wear your masks, wash your hands, practice social distancing, keep your connections safe, and know you are not alone.
Please remember: If you or someone you know needs any support with the mental and emotional challenges of these days, PLEASE reach out! It’s OK to ask for help. The Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 crisis counseling and support is always available. Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66749. Skagit County also has a new website—SkagitHelps—that can assist people in getting connected to local and state resources.