ROCHELLE — It’s one of the reasons living in a small community has its perks. It’s the people — only people can step up and get things done when it seems the odds are against them.
That’s what happened Wednesday in the “Hub City” at the United Methodist Church where several hundred people were signed up the get the vaccine for the COVID virus. But the vaccine didn’t show up as planned.
It was an event spearheaded by Rosie Arteaga; however, she’s quick to point out it was the everyone else, all the volunteers, who made it happen, including the Illinois Migrant Council and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Rochelle, which included students and teachers.
Nevertheless, Arteaga did a lot of legwork in a month’s time to get the vaccine event to Rochelle. When she asked the Methodist Church if they could use their facility, they said yes immediately.
In short notice, she was required to get 300 people by Monday, or the event would be canceled, so she went to the churches and businesses, including Rochelle Foods, and rounded up people to get the vaccine.
The plan was in place and all was good, people arrived on time at Hicks Hall at the church at 11 a.m. to get their shots. But the vaccine hadn’t arrived, so no shots. Noon went by and no vaccine. One o’clock, still no vaccine. By 3 p.m., though, they were in business as the vaccine arrived and inoculations started.
Arteaga is quick to point out the only reason the vaccine arrived at all is because of two people, Peg Feltes-Dordal and Fernando Molina, who came from Mendota. “I don’t know what magic they did, but without them, it wouldn’t have happened,” Arteaga said.
She added that everyone was in high spirits despite the wait. And the good part was that those who showed up on time filled out all the necessary questionnaire and once the vaccine arrived it was smooth sailing. “It was all done manually, not on a computer, and it’s similar to a form you’d get in the hospital or at the doctor’s office,” she explained.
Unfortunately, some had to leave because of work or other commitments, but anyone 65 or older or with disabilities didn’t have to wait. Others filled out their forms and came back later.
The staff from Mendota worked diligently from the time they arrived until they departed at 9 p.m. One thing Arteaga learned at the last minute is that there has to be a medical doctor on the premise, so enter Rochelle’s Dr. Pitamber Persaud who also happens to do work in Mendota.
Without even knowing exactly what the puzzle looked like, all the pieces seemed to fall into place.
“It could have been a disaster, it was very stressful … but no one gave up,” Arteaga said, adding that the volunteers all stuck around to help.
In the end, 360 people received the vaccine.
“Without the volunteers we had, it would not have happened.”