ROME CITY — The Noble County Health Department rolled out the red carpet Thursday night for the 250 volunteers who gave their time and talent since December to vaccinate their fellow citizens against COVID-19 at the county’s clinic at the Noble County Public Library in Albion.
Volunteers arrived at Sylvan Cellars for a dinner of chicken and pork chops, topped off with cake decorated with “You made a difference!!” and “Together we can do so much!”
Packets of coffee from Turning Point Coffee in Ligonier and Country Roads Coffee in Albion were tucked inside insulated travel mugs given to all volunteers when they arrived.
Indeed, they did. The fast and efficient clinic put more than 20,000 shots into arms in northeast Indiana before closing up shop Wednesday at the Albion library. From now on, people can call the health department at 636-2191 to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
The health department may have organized the party, but the volunteers turned the tables. At one point, the audience gave standing ovations to Noble County health officer Dr. Terry Gaff and emergency preparedness specialist Jessica Price.
A video made by health department intern Ben Jansen allowed the health department staff and vaccine recipients to thank the volunteers for their commitment to protect their fellow citizens.
“Volunteers sacrificed their time, wearing masks all the time and keeping people as safe as possible,” Gaff said in the video.
In the video, now-retired Emergency Management Agency director Mick Newton said he knew a well-run clinic was possible, but “the “wild card” was whether we could get enough volunteers.
Newton praised the volunteers for having a “cheerful, caring attitude.”
“There are no words to express my pride with these volunteers,” Newton said later in the video.
Gaff took the podium afterward to a standing ovation. He said he worried what was coming next when the first case of COVID-19 hit Indiana in early 2020.
“The idea that we’re here not a year later is cause for celebration,” he said. “More than 20,000 shots were given by June, all because of you.”
Gaff was modest about his role as health officer, saying that “people give me too much credit. It really was the volunteers.” He asked the volunteers to give themselves a standing ovation.
Gaff also pledged to stay on as Noble County’s health officer one more year.
New Noble County nurse Anne Lowe was less modest about Gaff’s role. In her previous position as a West Noble school nurse, Lough had daily conversations with Gaff about case counts and contact tracing and said Dr. Gaff was at the vaccine clinic nearly every day.
“His constant presence made the clinic run smoothly,” she said.