Someone to be thankful for: Downers Grove volunteer gave 484 hours at COVID testing site

  • Josephine "Jo" Potts of Downers Grove volunteered to work 484 hours from mid-June to the end of October at DuPage's COVID-19 testing site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton.

    Josephine "Jo" Potts of Downers Grove volunteered to work 484 hours from mid-June to the end of October at DuPage's COVID-19 testing site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. Courtesy of Amy Potts-Ostrowski

 
 
Updated 11/26/2020 9:47 AM

Josephine "Jo" Potts is a volunteer who stood out at DuPage's COVID-19 drive-through testing site at the county fairgrounds in Wheaton.

Of the 111 volunteers who have worked at least one 4-hour shift from mid-June to the end of October, Potts worked a whopping 484 hours.

 

"It is far and away the most of any volunteer," said DuPage County Board member Grant Eckhoff of Wheaton. "The people who are at the testing site, and all the people who have gone to it to be tested in DuPage County, are indebted to her for all her time and work."

Josephine Potts, right in red, was a volunteer at the COVID-19 testing site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. Potts and other volunteers helped direct vehicles at the site.
  Josephine Potts, right in red, was a volunteer at the COVID-19 testing site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. Potts and other volunteers helped direct vehicles at the site. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, October 2020

For Potts, volunteering was a way to be helpful during what is, hopefully, just a "once-in-a-century" pandemic. Yet, not all of Potts' family members were initially on board.

"I'm going to be 70 next month, so I'm in the high-risk group," Potts said. The Downers Grove resident added that her teenage grandchildren "thought that I was going to die."

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But Potts said the safety precautions at the testing site were rigorous. Face masks were mandatory at all times -- so much so that Potts joked that she might not recognize some volunteers and workers because she never saw them with their masks off.

Health questionnaires and temperature screenings were administered daily at the site. Potts also was impressed by the copious amounts of sanitizer on hand, and that no two people were allowed to use the same pen twice without it being disinfected.

"They ran a tight ship, but it was a friendly ship," said Potts, praising the site's mix of emergency management security, the DuPage County Health Department staff and the diverse volunteers. "Everybody just had the right attitude."

In early summer, Potts said there were plenty of volunteers at the site. But the numbers dropped off as fall approached, with many student and teacher volunteers returning to school.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So Potts and other volunteers would just stay on and sometimes work full-day shifts -- or at least until the daily allotment of 600 COVID-19 tests had been administered.

"All the clients were in their cars with their windows closed, except when they would roll the window down half an inch where some of us could slide in the pamphlets that explain the test and what to do if you're positive," said Potts about her main volunteer tasks of directing traffic outdoors.

Josephine "Jo" Potts of Downers Grove volunteered at the COVID-19 testing site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton.
Josephine "Jo" Potts of Downers Grove volunteered at the COVID-19 testing site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. - Courtesy of Amy Potts-Ostrowski

Potts said she would still be volunteering at the testing site if she could. But with winter approaching, DuPage is shifting to more professional emergency management staff as the testing site is reconfigured to be partially indoors.

"It's a little more difficult to have volunteer people who might get injured in the snow or the ice," said Joan Olson, the county's chief communications officer. "But we are so grateful to the volunteers who worked those long hours during the warmer weather."

When conditions allow, Potts would like to have a testing site reunion for all volunteers and staff.

"Think of high school or college, but everyone was wonderful," Potts said. "Whatever I thought was a big event before was nothing compared to this. It was incredible."

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