The Embassy Community Center in Dobbs Ferry hosted the first coronavirus vaccination clinic in the Rivertowns on Saturday, March 6. The clinic was also the first event at the community center since it was renovated between June 2016 and December 2020.
The Village of Dobbs Ferry and Rite Aid offered the vaccinations for seniors 65-plus. The required second doses will be administered on Saturday, April 3, also at the Embassy Center, 60 Palisade Street. Rite Aid is distributing the Moderna vaccine.
The 500 appointments were booked, and a waiting list established, between Feb. 26 and March 1, in response to email announcements by the Village of Dobbs Ferry and the Dobbs Ferry School District, as well as phone calls to seniors from Recreation Department Senior Advocate/Senior Program Director Abby Connett and Alissa Fasman, assistant to the Dobbs Ferry Village Administrator.
“We had almost 1,000 requests,” Connett told the Enterprise on March 4. She and Fasman reached out to specific seniors first. “We had a list of our Dobbs Ferry needy, folks who had [physical] trouble or could not go to the [Westchester] County Center. These were people who were able to go only locally.”
The Village bus used to transport seniors to medical appointments and to grocery stores brought 18 people to the Embassy Center. On duty were staff from the Village’s recreation, police, and public works departments, as well as members of its volunteer ambulance corps. Mayor Vincent Rossillo and village Trustee Nicole Sullivan, as well as ex-mayor Hartley Connett, also helped.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Hartley Connett’s wife, Abby, noted.
The community center was segmented into seven marked zones. Seniors checked in at Zone 1; had their temperatures taken at Zone 2; registered at Zone 3; waited on line at Zone 4; and waited in a room with tables and chairs at Zone 5. In Zone 6, two Rite Aid pharmacists administered injections in separate rooms. The seniors then proceeded to Zone 7, the monitoring room, where they sat for 15 minutes as members of the ambulance corps, led by president Joe Rooney, stood by in case of a medical emergency.
The clinic was held from 8:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Fasman reported for duty at 7 a.m. For many of the seniors, she said, “It’s like Old Home Week. They haven’t seen each other for a year. They haven’t seen Abby in a year.”
Connie Uccello, 92, sees Connett, who is her niece, regularly, but no one else other than medical professionals. “I’ve been in the house for a year,” she said on Monday, March 8. “The only time I left the house was to go to the doctor’s… Then you see your friends, but you can’t hug one another.”
Uccello, a former Sears catalog dressmaker, and a resident of Dobbs Ferry for 16 years, participated in senior activities before the pandemic. Her COPD requires her to be tethered to a 10-pound oxygen tank. She was gratified that a local clinic was scheduled, and was one of the first people to report to Zone 1. She had heard about long lines and other problems at vaccination sites, but her experience was the opposite.
“It was very well-organized,” she said. “We sat for 5 minutes and they called us in. You didn’t hear fighting, yelling, nothing. We went from one seat to another; it was like kids play games at a party.”
Uccello was home by 9 a.m.
Freda McDonnell, 75, and her husband, Frank, 80, both residents of Dobbs Ferry for 50 years, had no problems, either.
“I didn’t think it would be as organized as it was, because I knew there was going to be a lot of people,” Freda McDonnell affirmed, “but I was so impressed… it was just so smooth, everybody was so nice, and so helpful… everything just kept moving. It was wonderful.”
“It was brilliant of Rite Aid to be doing this community outreach, and we’re very thankful to them,” Abby Connett said, citing the help of Rushi Shah, regional pharmacy leader for the Hudson Valley.
“You won’t get one complaint,” Freda McDonnell added.