Grantee Blog 2020

The Best Shot

It’s May in New Jersey. The state is opening and returning to the new normal. In a state and a community that long to return to business, how would a community member with limited understanding of the healthcare system, inconsistent phone service, low literacy, and no identification manage to get a COVID vaccine?

In conjunction with the City of Summit and the regional health department, GRACE led its community members to get answers to questions about the vaccine and to navigate multiple platforms to get on as many vaccine waitlists for appointments as possible. GRACE volunteers offered rides to vulnerable individuals and their family members once they found appointments as far away from Summit as Hackensack!

Still there were barriers for some community members. Beholden to long days of work are the priority even over health, and unable to plan ahead to receive a two-dose vaccine, many people who come to GRACE were at an impasse. They need to be out in the world to work, they need to be healthy and safe, but they could not find their way in the system to get vaccinated.

We at GRACE mined our network for solutions. Would a one-dose vaccine at our location eliminate some of the barriers?  Our community spoke up:  they already move heaven and earth to come to our location to pick up food and supplies every Thursday. They would trust us to find a provider and a vaccine that could help.

The United Way of Greater Union County and Union County Human Services joined forces at the same time to reach county residents who could not obtain appointments for vaccines in the usual route.

Juanita Vargas from the United Way explained, “we understand how some members of our community can want a vaccine and still have no way to get one. The Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine gives an opportunity to reach people and not have to worry about a return visit.  Through this mobile clinic initiative we can meet community members where they are.”

One member of the GRACE community became emotional after the injection. He never thought he would be able to protect himself and the immune compromised members of his household. A few days before the GRACE weekly food distribution, his wife and her sister added him to the pre-registration list. “Today I won the lottery. There would have been no other way I could get the shot and still work my usual schedule.”

About the Grantee


GRACE stands for Giving and Receiving Assistance for our Community’s Essentials. While essentials can mean nutrient-dense food, we also aspire to enable the security, stabilization and success for all our community’s households.