Volunteering in the call center offers rewarding experience

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RELEASED: Oct 12, 2021

An integral part of Clatsop County’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the public information call center.

Since almost the beginning of the outbreak, the PICC and its list of all volunteers have taken on the vital duties of sharing information with residents and signing them up for tests, vaccinations and other services.

As the response to the pandemic evolves with new guidelines on testing, booster injections and ultimately treatment, new volunteers will be needed more than ever.

The PICC is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers work in shifts of an hour and a half or two. The number is (503) 325-8500.

“PICC volunteers are the heart and soul of our county’s COVID-19 response,” said PICC supervisor Ellie Jansen. “We have a great sense of camaraderie here at PICC. We all want to do our part to protect our community, provide good information and ease the burden of the pandemic. “

A number of PICC volunteers shared their reasons for enrolling, as well as the benefits and challenges of the position.

“Helping the COVID response seemed the right thing to do when the need was so great,” said Gearhart retired federal employee Chris Woolsey. “It’s good for me to learn new things and it has been a very positive experience to be part of the county’s efforts.”

Like Woolsey and many others at the call center, Dr. Roy Little from Astoria after volunteering in community vaccination clinics for the PICC.

“Part of the work at the PICC was to better understand how information about our local COVID response was being communicated to the public and to learn more about what questions or concerns people in our area have.”

Volunteers also agreed that keeping up with ever-evolving information about vaccines, tests, and federal, state, and local guidelines can be challenging. PICC supervisors keep volunteers informed of new developments on a daily basis to ensure that the information they share is as accurate as possible.

“I was very impressed with how well the PICC staff organized this complex material for us volunteers,” said Little.

“PICC volunteers are trained on their first shift and have time to eavesdrop on calls so they feel ready to take calls from the public,” said Jansen. “The supervisors are here to support them in answering calls, navigating our booking system and answering questions.”

When vaccines became widely available and community vaccination clinics were organized earlier this year, PICC volunteers helped residents navigate the online registration system.

As the demand for vaccines has declined and vaccines have become increasingly available, the main focus of the PICC has shifted to scheduling the community drive-through testing service at Camp Rilea. However, many of the calls are also about “gently” helping individuals decide whether to get a vaccine.

“I was so excited every time I was able to schedule someone for a COVID vaccine,” said retired Knappa school teacher Sandra van Meer. “Everyone I dealt with was so polite and grateful. Every call gave me a feeling of satisfaction. “

“Initially, callers were happy to speak to someone who had updated information on vaccine availability and eligibility,” said retired educator / librarian Geri Fick of Astoria. “Seniors in particular were thrilled to be offered a vaccination appointment. We are now taking test calls and callers are again grateful to speak to someone who can help them in their need or give them security. “

“Volunteering pays off in many ways,” said Mark Chadwick of Astoria. “I don’t just help individuals, I help the community. I would encourage anyone who has the time to volunteer. “

You can find out more about volunteering at this link.


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