Biz, Nonprofits Provide Free COVID Tests and Vaccines
By Dianne Anderson
To help the community get vaxxed and local businesses back on track, the Tustin Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Families Together nonprofit to provide parts of Orange County with over 40,000 jabs, and counting.
The health clinic took their act on the road when they saw the growing need to get vaccines to those that lacked time to get to their appointments, or lacked access to transportation to their sites.
Soledad Rivera said they started setting up where people were already congregating. One of her units went out to 100 restaurants where they were able to administer over 4,000 shots.
“We thought as soon as they open the restaurants and go into shopping centers, they can make an appointment by each restaurant. They get their shot and they wouldn’t have to miss work,” said Rivera director of business development at Families Together with locations in Tustin and Garden Grove.
Her mobile unit has set up at Southwestern Resource Center, which serves a predominantly homeless population. They are also visiting Mary’s Kitchen, and working with the healthcare agency there.
Over the weekend, they served Madison Elementary School. Last week they gave out 800 jabs at Magnolia High School in Anaheim. On June 8, they will be at Legacy College Prep in Santa Ana.
She said they want to keep the momentum going strong.
“We’re trying to go those areas so their apartment managers can pass information. We give flyers to the city, working with Mayor Letitia and her team, and the school districts, so they’re sending messages to parents to let them know,” she said.
When they opened up vaccines for teachers, she said that about 2,000 showed up for the event.
Mayor Letitia Clark said that the Families Together outreach has been a lifeline in Tustin throughout the pandemic by providing free COVID tests and vaccines to the community.
“They’ve made a concerted effort to be accessible to the most vulnerable, the elderly, people of color, service industry workers, teachers and now youth 12 and older. Their presence has allowed Tustin to be leaders in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and I’m proud to call Families Together a valued Tustin partner,” she said.
The clinic is tackling some of the county’s high-impact areas, including Tustin schools. Participants are invited back to the location for the follow-up second shot. At the last official count, the total first and second doses administered totaled 41,085. Of those, self-identified African-Americans have received 3,791 doses.
Rivera, a board member with the chamber, said these types of events are needed in low-income and disadvantaged communities, but being able to access the vaccines near business locations also can spur more local business activity.
It’s good for everyone.
“We’re here for the businesses, I’m here to provide the health part of it. It’s a win-win, businesses are reopening, people can come back to work. It’s a circle,” she said.
Before joining Families Together, Soledad worked for 17 years connecting low-income families and special needs community to the school district in Tustin. She also worked with local homeless in another county-led collaborative with other nonprofits.
The nonprofit was formed over 20 years ago by her sister, but she said has since transformed under their CEO Alexander Rossel, who turned the Families Together model into a federally qualified health center.
Last year, they saw the need in the system, and said it opened a great opportunity.
“We started going a lot into shelters. We had our clinic, we were assisted by the county clinic to provide covid testing, we did over 20,000 tests, we went into [distributing] vaccines,” she said.
As more in the community see others rolling up their sleeves, she feels that more people will feel comfortable getting the jab. Their 32-foot mobile unit has rooms inside with doctors and nurses to check vitals, and talk them through the process.
The other issue is that so many lower-income Latino and Black communities are now more vulnerable than pre-COVID times as families have been forced to double or tripled up through the economy of the past year.
Mostly, she said their mission is to provide proper education and care, services to make people feel safe, and build community trust.
“We’re not just here to push the vaccine out but we’re here to serve you and to hopefully protect you and we’ll be here whenever you’re ready for it,” she said.
For more information, see https://familiestogetheroc.org/