Elgin church to host vax clinic for homeless

Hoping to capitalize on its existing relationship with Elgin's homeless community, the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren is holding a vaccination event Saturday during its weekly Soup Kettle event.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson clinic will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at the church, 783 W. Highland Ave.

"These folks don't have many people in their lives who they can trust," said Cheryl Gray, manager of the Soup Kettle ministry. "So we're leveraging that trusting relationship.

"And I'll hold anybody's hand on Saturday," she said. "These are my friends and people I love and care about, so I want them as healthy as my children."

The clinic is open to all Soup Kettle guests, tent city residents or anyone seeking vaccination. Though intended for the homeless, the clinic is free to anyone who wants to be vaccinated.

Gray said cars will be sent to parks and areas where the homeless typically shelter every half-hour to drive them to the clinic.

Those who agree to be vaccinated will be treated to snacks and beverages, be given $5 and be entered in a raffle to win a bag of groceries.

"I've been out talking to everybody who attends Soup Kettles and I've been to tent city and there has been more interest than I thought there would be, quite honestly," Gray said.

The church is partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Emergency Management Team on the clinic.

Gray said they're expecting at least 50 people, but they have an "unlimited" supply of the vaccine, she was told by IDPH.

"They said they'll have as many doses as we can get people through the door between 1 and 5," she said.

Gray said about a dozen volunteers have stepped up to man the event and help pick people up and drive them back.

The church has been hosting the Saturday night Soup Kettle for 34 years and averages about 70 people a week, Gray said. The Soup Kettle is hosted by other churches on different days of the week. Gray said Highland Avenue Church has been the only church offering table and chair dining recently while the other churches are still only offering food to go because of the pandemic.

"People who come to the Soup Kettle come as much for community as they do for food," Gray said. "They want to be nourished by friends, they miss sitting around the table and talking about what they did that day. As soon as we can get the majority of people vaccinated in our Soup Kettle community, that's when we can return to normal and welcome people back inside our churches."

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