JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As Jacksonville City Councilmember Ju'Coby Pittman, also the CEO of the Clara White Mission, recovers from COVID-19 at home, the mission is teaming up with the city to hold a series of vaccine clinics. The first was Wednesday.
Pittman was released from the hospital at the end of July after fighting the virus for a few weeks. Pittman and one-third of the staff at the mission contracted COVID in July, forcing them to close their doors for close to three weeks.
“We had a really awful experience in the month of July with about a third of our staff contracting the delta variant and we did lose a staff person, so for us, this is just doubly meaningful," Meg Fisher, the Mission's Vice President, said.
"It’s kind of in honor of the people who were affected and just to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can to keep our children safe, keep our community safe and just get rid of COVID once and for all," she said.
"He had been here longer than any other staff member, 33 years, and he was just the heartbeat of this organization," Fisher said about Smith. "It’s just devastating. It never will be the same place. Clara White Mission is a special place, but it’s different. It has changed now," she said.
About 20 people got vaccinated Wednesday morning. The clinic was open from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
"I have to take it because I risk death," Allen Porcher, who got vaccinated Wednesday, said.
Porcher recently had a kidney transplant. He said he was hesitant to get the vaccine because he didn't think there was enough research. Now, he changed his mind.
"My immune system is kind of low. I’ve been trying to duck and dodge [COVID] for the longest, but I hear this new strain is more contagious than the previous ones, so I’m more concerned about my health now since I have this weak immune system," he said.
Porcher got his Johnson & Johnson shot, and said he now feels safer. The clinic also offers the Moderna vaccine. He had a message for those who may be hesitant like he was.
"I suggest you take it and stay alive," he said.
Kie'arra Mack, 20-years-old, also got vaccinated Wednesday. She said up until her mom got the virus recently, "we didn't think it was really real and it was out there."
"The other day I found out my mom has Corona and I was worried about her and then she got my sisters vaccinated, so I said, 'alright this thing is real. I’m going to go get vaccinated,'" Mack said.
Her mom is recovering now, but had to be given a breathing treatment, Mack said.
Pittman is doing better, Fisher says, after fighting the virus in the hospital for weeks.
"We hear from her multiple times a day. It’s the next best thing to having her in the building, so we expect her back shortly," she said.
The vaccination clinics will be open at the mission every Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon until Sept. 29. Those who get their shot will also get a free hot breakfast, a snack and a $10 voucher to use at Publix, Winn Dixie or Harvey's.