VISTA Stories 2021-2022

Allie Wesel, Will Grundy Medical Clinic

Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to serve at Will Grundy Medical Clinic.  During this time, I had the opportunity to grow our social media platform and increase the mission’s visibility in the community.  On Facebook, I increased our following by 105% and our posts are reaching 275% more people.  Our Instagram posts saw a 100% increase in people reached, and our Twitter account saw a 124% following increase and 231% increase in visits to our profile.  This successful increase in social media presence allows for the clinic to share with a wider audience the impact that we have on the community.  Increasing our audience also means potentially capturing new donors. During my time at WGMC, I also had the opportunity to work with Executive Director, Shawn Marconi, on our annual appeal.  I created the messaging, curated social media posts based on this messaging, and drafted our appeal letter.  In total, the campaign raised $22,617 for the clinic. This last year has shown me the need for the services that WGMC provides and the importance for raising funds so that the clinic can continue to provide vital medical services.  The clinic is currently expanding its programming and without consistent social media messaging and strong fundraising tactics this would not be possible. Healthcare advocacy is something that I have become passionate about and I look forward to utilizing this experience in my future career.   WGMC and IAFCC were welcoming and fully invested in providing me with the most enriching experience possible even in the middle of the pandemic, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve in such an impactful environment.

Hiba Pediyakkal, The Opioid Project, IAFCC

Over the course of my VISTA service with IAFCC, I worked to continue the opioid project. This project aims to expand access to Opioid Use Disorder treatment for patients that use free and charitable clinics. I worked to develop resources to educate clinics and the community about the opioid crisis and how different organizations were working to combat this epidemic. I was able to create an Opioid Toolkit with information and resources tailored to help low-income individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Through my VISTA service, I learned from incredible individuals and organizations devoted to providing the best care to their patients, and I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Charlie Revord, Old Irving Park Community Clinic

As my 16 months as a VISTA member with Old Irving Park Community Clinic comes to a close, I’ve had the opportunity to develop the clinic’s digital outreach capabilities, database functionality, and long term technical sustainability goals. The biggest development successes during my service included redesigning the clinic’s website in an accessible web design platform, producing the 2020 annual virtual event in place of the clinic’s traditional yearly gala (due to Covid), setting up the clinic’s graphic design and mass email platforms, and creating approximately 14 hours of training videos. As a VISTA, I was able to use my drive as a self-starter to advance the clinic’s community presence and mission. I’m proud of the healthcare services Old Irving Park Community Clinic provides to underserved residents of Chicago and that I could support them during my AmeriCorps service period. 

Hiba Pediyakkal, The Opioid Project, IAFCC

AmeriCorps VISTA Hiba Pediyakkal at IAFCC completed the first draft of a statewide report detailing the Free and Charitable Clinic (FCC) response to the Opioid Crisis in Illinois. This report includes data related to the Opioid crisis as well as the important role the FCC sector plays in addressing this epidemic. There is very little literature about free clinics and the role they have in the Opioid crisis. This report can be used by clinics across the state as a reference and will hopefully help in creating a coordinated statewide response.

Cate Ettinger, CommunityHealth

VISTA member Cate Ettinger serving as the Education and Engagement Associate at CommunityHealth (CH) in Chicago, Illinois, facilitated the onboarding and training of 12 new volunteer medical interpreters during November. Volunteer medical interpreters provide remote Polish and Spanish interpretation services for CH patients during their appointments, allowing CH to fulfill its guarantee of service provision in English, Spanish, and Polish.

To meet the language needs of patients each month, Cate manages the interpreter program and coordinates interpreter-provider matches; in response to increased interpreter needs, especially Polish interpreting, Cate onboarded 14 new volunteers in the month of November. She guided them through orientation and training and sent accepted volunteers CH’s volunteer application, HIPAA training, and volunteer resources and instructions. She onboarded them to CH’s volunteer management database and guided them through the process of scheduling their shadow shift with an experienced interpreter, after which she promoted them to solo interpreting and welcomed them to the volunteer team. As a result, CH now has 10 new Spanish and 2 new Polish medical interpreters who have already volunteered for 37 hours and contributed a total of $1,006.40 in volunteer time.

Allie Wesel, Will Grundy Medical Clinic

VISTA Allie, who is serving at Will Grundy Medical Clinic, worked with Shawn Marconi, the Executive Director of the Clinic, to develop the annual appeal mailer and giving Tuesday Campaign for the clinic. Campaign materials included a letter with a donation slip and return envelope, a postcard, and various social media postings. These solicitations to donors were used to promote the end of the year giving. The clinic, like a lot of organizations, has experienced financial hardship, so obtaining funds from these mailers and social media campaigns were important. Mailers were sent during the third week of November, and donations began to come in during the final week of the month totaling $845.

Samuel Qian, DuPage Health Coalition

VISTA member Samuel Qian is serving as a Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the DuPage Health Coalition (DHC) in Carol Streams, Illinois. In October he worked on the Community Mask Project. The Community Mask Project is an ongoing project (beginning in August) to provide free masks to families and organizations within the community. While the project was put on hold in September, DHC began advertising again in October. To help with this project, he coordinated efforts between a JOANN’s fabric store and volunteer sewers to produce 500 pediatric face masks. DHC provided free face masks at 6 of its flu shot clinics in October. 

Adelaide Del Angel, Old Irving Park Community Clinic

VISTA member Adelaide Del Angel, serving at the Old Irving Park Community Clinic in Chicago, Illinois worked in conjunction with the executive director and VISTA member Charlie Revord, to produce and publicize the clinic’s first-ever virtual event, which took place on September 26th. Typically, the clinic would hold an in-person event to generate a significant push in donations. Due to Covid-19, however, this was not possible. Instead, they put together a 30-minute video and a silent auction. The event was well-received by clinic supporters and brought in financial contributions to the clinic. 

Adelaide’s role mainly pertained to publicity which meant regularly producing material to publish. This included subtitled video clips from the event prior to its premiere, posts for the clinic’s social media platforms, and sending out emails to current and previous volunteers as well as donors. The increase in publicity raised the people reached through the Facebook page by 647% and overall post engagements by 1633%. At the end of the event and auction, the clinic raised $4,423.

Alisha Vohra, DuPage Health Coalition

Over the last year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of being the Health Equity Outreach Coordinator VISTA at the DuPage Health Coalition (DHC), working with the DHC team to increase COVID-19 outreach, information, and vaccinations to the underserved communities of DuPage County. Since DHC holds strong and pivotal relationships with all of the hospitals in the county as well as with the health department, we have been able to provide care and health resources through our unique structure and programs. 

In addition to assisting with COVID-19 vaccination efforts, one of my main projects during my VISTA year was to manage our Community Mask Project, where I obtained, distributed, and assessed the need for masks and other PPE within DuPage County. In order to do so, I conducted a lot of outreach on my part to schools and other community organizations, especially into the summer months and the start of fall, and this led quite nicely into advocacy for our continued vaccine events, flu vaccine voucher program, and service promotions in the later half of the year. Throughout the year, the program has grown to include more than just masks and PPE, and now includes hand sanitizers, personal care supplies, and more, thanks to great local partnerships and supporters!

As a lifelong DuPage County resident and as a soon-to-be medical student with an interest in public and global health, I am so extremely thankful to have had this opportunity to give back to the community that I was raised in and also learn first hand about public health operations (in a pandemic). I have loved my time at DHC more than I can say in words, and it has been a privilege to be able to serve on their team for the last year. As a VISTA, I learned about the importance of social determinants of health and power of partnerships and empathy in healthcare, and I hope to use both as I continue on to medical school later this summer.