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Pumpkin pie and free vaccines: Mel Trotter Thanksgiving meal brings community together

Hundreds shared the meal together after missing 2020's due to the pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A line hundreds of people long stretches around the ballroom of DeVos Place at 10:30 Thursday morning. As volunteers prepared the final touches, the doors opened, marking the return of a tradition dearly missed in 2020.

"To share compassion and stories and just a meal together," Said Beth Fisher, Chief Advancement officer with Mel Trotter Ministries. "I think it means more than any of us actually realize."

HAPPY THANKSGIVING: Mel Trotter Ministries is hosting its annual Thanksgiving community meal at DeVos Place in Grand...

Posted by 13 On Your Side on Thursday, November 25, 2021

The pandemic canceled the celebration last year, and it's effects are still very present at Thursday's lunch. Temperatures were checked at the door and masks were required at all times except when eating and drinking. As Michigan still leads the country in 7-day positivity rate, the event took one extra step to protect West Michigan - a free walk-up vaccine clinic through Cherry Health.

 "We’ve had a lot of patients that have mentioned they’ve been wanting the vaccine but hadn’t gotten it yet," Said Dr. Jenny Bush, Cherry Health's COVID Response Coordinator. "A lot of pharmacies are requiring people to pre register and a lot of people don’t have internet access or phones to be able to do preregistration."

Dr. Bush mentioned vaccine access being a barrier in communities that lack resources. Cherry Health has partnered with Mel Trotter Ministries throughout the pandemic to provide vaccinations, so partnering on Thanksgiving was a no brainer.

"This is a place that people are already coming today," Bush said. "A lot of our community is going to be here so we thought it was a great opportunity to be here with them."

For Andy Shaub, it was the perfect solution to his self described tech woes. He's wanted to get a booster shot for longer than a month, but had trouble with the online registration.

"I went to two pharmacies and went home without a vaccine," The Kentwood native said. "They just told me I had to get online and it stopped there because I’m not that great with my cell phone."

On Thanksgiving, he was able to walk up and get his booster in minutes. "Piece of Cake," he said of the process, "I wish I saw a line, more people should get it."

For Dr. Bush and her colleagues with Cherry health, they didn't have a set number beforehand, so they brought more doses than they anticipated using. 200 doses of the Pediatric Pfizer vaccine, 200 Doses of the Adult Pfizer vaccine, and 140 doses of the Flu shot was well.

Even for those who aren't ready to get their shots, Bush says the event is the perfect place to educate and dispel myths surrounding vaccination. "Hopefully people will be going back to their table and sharing their story that it doesn’t hurt very much and they’re feeling good that they got it.”

Mel Trotter says 60 shots were administered during the event.

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