Nurse Laura Crenshaw gives a shot in the drive thru line at Greater Warner. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — The sun had barely broken over the horizon on the last Saturday of April before the foot soldiers of the Knoxville Area Urban League and New Directions Healthcare Solutions were pulling up and unloading vans and trunks filled with vaccine and resource materials. They were on a mission at not just one location; they were holding two mega clinics in opposite ends of the inner city. It is the beginning of a big push, a push to vaccinate as many as possible before the pandemic emergency mandate ends by the government and the CDC on May 11th.

Both vaccine clinics were held at two of Knoxville’s largest and most influential Black Churches, Greater Warner Tabernacle AME Zion Church and Overcoming Believers Church. Sitting at opposite ends of the largest Black community in Knoxville, the churches serve marginalized communities in food deserts. To combat the problems of lack of access to food and vaccines in these marginalized communities, both churches partnered with community organizations and other groups to provide a day of services and information, and everything was free.

Greater Warner had a food giveaway along with the vaccines. Cars lined up for vaccines and food boxes with citizens never having to leave their cars as volunteers loaded the trunks of cars with much needed food including meats, and administrators from the Urban League and New Directions registered people as nurses came to the vehicles to give the new Bivalent vaccine that was provided by Winbigler Pharmacy.

At the same time, the second team from the Knoxville Area Urban League and New Directions set up in the foyer of Overcoming Believers Church to register and give shots to those who came to the church that sits at the entrance into East Knoxville. The nurses from Chi Eta Phi nursing sorority were also set up do blood pressure checks and give out information on other resources available to the community.

The mission of both organizations is to vaccinate as many as possible before the mandates end and the vaccines begin to have a cost for those with no insurance. As Finch said, “COVID is not going away.” Both organizations are stepping up their efforts to educate people about the need to still get vaccinated using innovative measures.

A $50 gift card incentive has been added to all future clinics by the Urban League. Everyone who gets their first, second or booster shot will receive a gift card good for gas or food. In addition, New Directions founder Cynthia Finch will offer a gift card to all parents who bring proof of their child’s immunizations being up to date including their COVID shots. These incentives began April 28th and will run until the end of the project.