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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Rutherford’s Blood Drive to Honor Local Pandemic Heroes

Submitted by Kathleen Mathieu

The Kindness of Strangers will be the theme of Rutherford Community Blood Bank’s Fall blood drive, to be held at 55 Kip Center from 2 to 8 PM on Monday, November 1st.

The drive will honor the phenomenal volunteer effort of Facebook group Rutherford Covid Updates, which resulted in more than 1,000 area residents receiving the lifesaving Covid-19 vaccine.

Erika and her husband Tom Twist

The initiative was led by Erika Twist and Rosanna Pizza, who had spent many hours researching the various vaccination websites, the main source of appointments. Unfortunately, most sites were far from user-friendly. To describe the Rutherford residents as cyber-sleuths would be no exaggeration. “Nothing was up front,” said Erika. “Everything was hidden.” The problem was compounded by a shortage of vaccines.

Erika was particularly motivated by the passing of her father-in-law, Tom Twist, Jr., who died from the virus less than two months before immunization became available. “I don’t want anybody to go through what we have experienced, to feel the way we have felt because of his illness, death, and now, his absence,” said Erika.

Knowing that there were countless people who did not have the wherewithal to make an appointment, the women were soon responding to a growing number of requests for help from people from all over, the vast majority of whom were strangers.

Rosanna Pizza

Through social media and by word-of-mouth, the news of their work spread. “We didn’t plan what happened, the whole thing evolved organically,” said Rosanna. They used Facebook, texts, email, and the phone to schedule appointments. Most often, it was all done “virtually,” said Erika. “We didn’t meet people, or even talk to them.”

Most successful scheduling occurred at night during the wee hours when, counterintuitively, available time slots were usually posted. “There were many roadblocks to getting appointments, but we were determined,” said Rosanna. The rewards far surpassed the challenges, she said. “I will never forget the elderly gentleman – a complete stranger from out of the area—who told me that because I got him an appointment he could be with his wife who was in a memory home.”

Numerous area residents eventually pitched in, including Erika Bogdan, Erika Carvalho, Lissette Delgado, Kristen McPhie, Joan Macri, Beth St. Hilaire, Stephanie Beatini Valdes, and Janelle Zdon. “There also were people who heard about what we were doing and reached out to help others connect with us,” said Rosanna.

“I often look at my children and think about how much they will miss by not growing up with my father-in-law in their lives,” said Erika. “By helping people get the Covid-19 vaccine, I know I prevented other children from having this kind of loss.”

"We are proud to honor our fellow neighbors, who went above and beyond in volunteering their time to so generously serve others,” said Carol Hsu, Blood Bank chairperson.

For more information on donating blood or to pre-register online, visit Walk-ins are welcome. A parental consent form for 16-year-olds is required.

Per CDC guidelines, social distancing and masks will be mandatory.

To read more about Erika's and Rosanna's efforts, click here.

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