ALEXANDRIA, VA–In late March, Alexandria business leaders got together and decided it was time to take care of their own. Getting vaccinated in the Port City got a whole lot easier for the community of restaurant and retail workers thanks to the collaboration of the business associations, a couple of privately-held restaurant groups, a pharmacy and the City health department.
“We had been trying to figure out a way to get everybody vaccinated but we weren’t sure how to get it going,” Charlotte Hall, Managing Director of the Old Town Business Association (OTBA) told The Zebra this afternoon. “And then we made a connection with Van Dorn Pharmacy, who said they’d supply the vaccine and the people to give the shots if we could find a building and organize the rest.”
Scott Shaw, one of the principals of The Alexandria Restaurant Partners, jumped in right away with access to an empty building at 1501 Mount Vernon Avenue that they own, and the pop-up vaccination clinic was open for business on March 28.
At first the shots were given to any employee of a business that belonged to OTBA and the Alexandria Restaurant Partners, but soon it was open to any person who worked for any business connected to any of the Alexandria business associations including members and their employees of the West End Business Association (WEBA), Del Ray Business Association (Visit Del Ray), the Carlyle Council, Eisenhower Partnership and the Old Town North Alliance.
“At that first clinic, Scott and I were the token volunteers,” said Hall, “and we learned a lot that have made the next three sessions since then run even better, like having translators on hand for many Spanish-speaking employees for one thing.”
Each of the four employee vaccine events has averaged 350 vaccinations per day. “Our small businesses really need to stay open to survive, and being able to help owners and staff get vaccinated has been keeping commerce going,” says Hall.
One of the collaborators, Bill Blackburn, a partner in the Homegrown Restaurant Group told Zebra, “Homegrown Restaurant Group was proud to work with Alexandria Restaurant Partners, Van Dorn Pharmacy, and the Alexandria Health Department to put on these events. It’s another example of how powerful our small business community is here in the City.”
“It’s been an exhilarating and rewarding experience,” says Hall who has been the main organizer for the clinics. Explaining that it is easy to join in the thrill most participants show, Hall said that the whole process has touched her deeply in so many ways, some she did not expect. “Many people seemed somewhat fearful at first about the vaccine–people from all economic levels. But once they had the shot, well, tears of joy. That’s it. Tears of joy.”
One woman who came through really affected Hall. The woman lost her mother to Covid last year, and when she got her shot, she told Hall through tears, “Imagine if this shot had been here sooner. I would not have lost my mom.”
Moments like that and more are why employers, managers, and Hall herself, along with anywhere from 12-20 volunteers per clinic, have all been there to greet, support, and cheer on the people receiving their vaccines. “You are on a high all day as you encourage and reward people,” explains Hall. “And the owners too. All owners [have taken] great pride in their employees, showing up for moral support. They wanted them to know that they care.”
“This is a real community effort. The city has been very supportive of our efforts. I cannot say enough thanks,” reflected Hall.
The clinics will be ongoing while supplies last and/or all the employees get vaccinated, said Hall. For more information on how to be part of the clinics, either as a volunteer or because you or someone you know needs the vaccine, contact Charlotte Hall directly at [email protected]