Early this year as COVID-19 vaccines became available, hundreds of millions of people needed to be vaccinated. The St. Louis Park Fire Department wanted to help. Since all firefighters are trained as EMTs or paramedics, "We saw this as an opportunity for the fire department to step up and take the lead in our community," said St. Louis Park Fire Chief Steve Koering.
Looking for a way to offer their services, Chief Koering reached out to Park Nicollet Foundation.
"They’re a great community partner and trusted us enough to say ‘this could work,’" Koering said. "That’s always been a tenet of our relationship with each other – we find a path to work together and it always brings good results for the community."
After going through extensive vaccination and volunteer training, the firefighters partnered with Methodist Hospital to work in the vaccine clinic over the lunch hour. Called "breakers," the firefighters gave vaccinations while regular staff took a lunch break.
"It’s been fun to see how easily the firefighters talk with and engage the patients who visit us," said Chris VanLith, Volunteer Services. "We know how important the firefighters are in our community, and it’s inspiring to see how quickly they put patients at ease. We’re really grateful they are here with us."
Pop-up vaccination clinics
The fire department also knew from their community outreach programs that there were many underserved and access-challenged people in the city, and they wanted to find additional ways to help them get vaccinated.
"We recognized we could play a crucial role for people who don’t have transportation, don’t have a doctor, don’t feel comfortable filling out forms, are unsure about the information they are receiving, worried about safety, don’t speak English, or don’t know where to go to get vaccinated," said Asst. Fire Chief Hugo Searle. "We are already helping these people through our community health programming, so it was natural for us."
The solution: a partnership to support a series of pop-up clinics, held at locations like public housing facilities and local elementary schools. Park Nicollet provides vaccines and a pharmacist for on-site medical expertise supported by the Foundation, and the firefighters give the vaccines.
So far, three successful pop-up clinics have been held, with more in the works.
One example of the dedication to community health: helping a 98-year-old man living in St. Louis Park who couldn’t drive. The fire department picked him up at his house and drove him to the clinic to get vaccinated.
"We’re passionate about helping our community," said Chief Koering. "It’s just the right thing to do."
A valued partnership
"We really value our partnership with the St. Louis Park Fire Department,” said Park Nicollet Foundation Executive Director Beth Warner. “Together we are able to overcome obstacles and solve problems that improve health and wellbeing for people living in our community. Over the years, we’ve learned how to work together to build bridges across the many silos that exist, to try new solutions and tap into each other’s expertise and input. Our partnership is based on trust, accountability, creativity and perseverance. Chief Koering and Assistant Chief Searle are great thought partners, truly committed to the community."
If you would like to make a difference in supporting the needs of the community, please consider making a donation to one of our HealthPartners foundations listed below. Thank you.