PALM BEACH GARDENS - When Publix opened the appointment portal and began to schedule COVID vaccine appointments a few months ago, Sheila Giardini from Carmine’s Gourmet Market and La Trattoria Ristorante in Palm Beach Gardens kept one eye on the computer and her hands poised above the keyboard, ready to make sure she could schedule a vaccine appointment for her mom and her husband, Carmine.
But after she scheduled the appointments for them, and once they were vaccinated, she didn’t stop booking appointments.
As soon as appointments became available locally, Giardini scheduled vaccine appointments for other family members, neighbors and regular customers of Carmine’s who she knew might not have access or be tech savvy enough to navigate the process. She shared what she was doing with co-workers Cathy Ali and Ruth Kaczor, who immediately joined Giardini.
That crew began checking in with regular customers and offering to help work the phones and keyboards to schedule appointments for the ones who weren’t sure how to do it or didn’t have computer access. Kate Taylor and her mom joined the small posse of vaccine schedulers, and Alex Stetka, a friend who lives in Maryland joined in.
Hundreds of appointments later, the women are still working the phones, scheduling appointments, saving lives and offering hope.
“We are sitting in front of a computer screen all day long, but a lot of our seniors and customers are not,” Ali said. “Early on in the vaccination process, it was really difficult to get into the portal because it was so busy. At one time, there were six of us who were on our devices every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning when the appointment portals were open, working on long lists to get people scheduled. We’d all work and text each other and share who we’d gotten in. It was exciting to feel like we were able to help people. It felt like you’d won the lottery when you could get someone an appointment.”
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