St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Vaccine Rollout Pays Off for Community

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St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mount Dora hosted the only vaccine site in Lake County. Health care workers administered more than 30,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from January through the beginning of May from the church.

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“We had people giving out drinks, snacks and hand sanitzers; it was great,” said Mary Grace Baugh, director of operations for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. “We’ve gotten so many thank you cards. It makes us feel good to be able to help out like that.”

When the community called, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church answered.

The church nestled on the border of Orange and Lake Counties served as a key community COVID-19 vaccination site in central Florida. Lake County Health Department employees and Lake Tech Nursing students administered more than 30,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from January through the beginning of May.

“People were anxious to get their shots. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories. In the end, we were able to fit everyone in,” said Mary Grace Baugh, director of operations for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

The church was the only vaccination site in Mount Dora and Lake County. Always busy on Sunday, St. Patrick’s became a go-to from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, with lines of cars snaked around the parish. The urgency to get vaccinated prompted some residents to line up before dawn. One man even parked his RV the night before to ensure a premium space in line.

Mount Dora Police, health care workers and volunteers made sure that the vaccination site ran smoothly, ensuring drivers’ safety while they waited their turn for their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Many credit police for handing out water and snacks as drivers made their way through various checkpoints.

“We had people giving out drinks, snacks and hand sanitzers; it was great,” Baugh said. “We’ve gotten so many thank you cards. It makes us feel good to be able to help out like that.”

“I was especially impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the Mount Dora Police. Whether they were offering snacks, golf cart rides or offering to "watch" your car and move it if needed if you had to use the bathroom or walk a dog, they were there to assist.,” said Leesburg resident Ray Ariemma, who was vaccinated at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. “Although it was a five-hour wait from start to finish, everyone made it a pleasant experience and could not have been more helpful. I know many people were impressed with St. Pat's site and everyone there working made it as pleasant as possible. We were sincerely grateful to all.”

The success of the vaccination rollout prompted St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to organize a special inoculation outreach on May 2 for the large Hispanic community in greater Mount Dora. More than 277 people showed up on a Sunday to get their second shot.

“At first we weren’t sure how the vaccination site would work. But it was very organized and filled a community need. In the end, that’s what a church is supposed to do – fill a community need,” Baugh said. “Becoming a vaccination site turned into a blessing for everyone.”

About St. Patrick’s Catholic Church
The parish of St. Patrick is a community of faith, composed of various ethnic, linguistic and racial backgrounds. It is deeply rooted in the Roman Catholic family of believers. The make-up of the parish reflects the catholicity of the church itself. We gather to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, to grow in the life of the gospel by our own witness and service in the name of Jesus Christ. We seek to deepen our faith, hope and charity by ongoing learning and a vibrant sharing in communion and mission, reaching out to one another and offering hospitality to all without exception. We desire to be led by the Spirit, the Scriptures and Church teaching so that we may give evidence of evangelical response to the ever-changing needs of the world at large and our own locale. Visit St.PatrickMtDora.org

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Patricia Maldonado
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