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MEA Retiree Helps Others Get Vaccinated

Feb 09, 2021

Because she’s 75 years old, retired educator Pam Kellar was able to get a COVID-19 vaccine quickly, yet most days she’s still on the phone and the internet trying to schedule appointments for shots.

For the past few weeks, Kellar – who is president of her MEA-Retired chapter in Warren – has taken it upon herself to help both active and retired educators from the area get hard-to-snare vaccination appointments.

The former elementary school teacher navigates three hospital systems and the Macomb County Health Department to snag in-demand slots for educators, who don’t have time to check online sites for appointments every 15 minutes or hold on the phone for hours every day.

The volunteer activity fills days of pandemic home isolation, she says: “I’m retired, and I don’t have anything to do, so I don’t mind listening to elevator music for two hours if it means more teachers can get vaccinated.”

Since the pandemic began, Kellar has only left her home four times, she said. The stress of the past year has made it hard to sleep, often waking her between 3 and 4 a.m. “One morning I woke up at 4:10, and I was able to schedule seven teachers,” she said.

She connects with educators who need shots through the Facebook pages of the Warren EA and the retired chapter she leads. “Some of the teachers I’ve scheduled I’ve never met,” she said.

The quest has become a fun competition between her and the current vice president of the Warren Education Association, Lisa Sikoski. “She and I are in a race to see who can register the most teachers. I’m at 30, and she’s at 27.”

Kellar began her volunteer effort when she was able to schedule an appointment for her daughter – who teaches in Chippewa Valley – after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that school employees would be eligible to receive vaccine beginning Jan. 11.

Since then, she made it her mission to learn the secrets of the health department (appointments open Tuesday mornings at 8:30 sharp); Ascension health system (online only, watch for the link to appear when appointments open); and Beaumont and Henry Ford systems (phone calls work best, and be prepared to wait).

Other participants in her circle include fellow MEA-Retired member Fern Cohen and Sue Trombley, president of the Warren Consolidated School Board. Between the four of them, Kellar estimates they have scheduled close to 70 teachers.

“Except for my neighbors, everyone I’ve made an appointment for has been a union member,” said Kellar, who finished a 38-year career in 2009. “I keep telling my friends that I need to retire from doing this, but we need to get teachers vaccinated ASAP. I want these people healthy and happy.”