When he learned New Hope Baptist Church would host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Larry Earvin was ready to roll up his sleeve for a shot.

“This is what we need, what the country needs, to get back to some kind of normalcy,” Earvin said.

Earvin, a church trustee who oversees the church building and grounds, was among 250 people who received a vaccine at a clinic Spectrum Health held in partnership with the church and the Kent County Health Department.

Nurses administered vaccines by appointment only at the one-day clinic.

“That was a piece of cake,” he said. “I didn’t even know she put the needle in (until she) said, ‘OK, you’re done.’”

Earvin was not surprised to see New Hope Baptist Church become a site for the clinic. It fits with a long tradition of service to the community.

“New Hope has been around for a long time. It is a cornerstone in the Black community,” Earvin said.

Holding the community-based clinic is part of an effort to address racial and ethnic health inequities, said Valissa Armstead, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Spectrum Health.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the Black and Brown communities. And the church is located in a ZIP code—49507—that has had a high number of COVID-19 cases.

New Hope Baptist’s role in hosting the clinic was invaluable in making vaccines accessible to community members 65 and older, Armstead said.

“The church is a pillar of the community, right in the center of the city and it is well respected,” she said. “To have the opportunity to meet people in a place that is trusted, where they feel comfortable, is fantastic.”

‘A sense of relief’

At 68, Earvin is in good health. But he says that is no guarantee he would have an easy time if he contracted COVID-19. That’s why he eagerly agreed to get the vaccine.

“This scares me, this COVID thing,” he said. “It is airborne. Where can you go and not (potentially) be affected?”

Getting the vaccine, he said, “just gives you a sense of relief. You know there is something there to try to prevent the virus.”

He looks forward to the day the pandemic is history, so he and his wife, Virginia, can safely gather with their children and grandchildren.

“I definitely want to be around my grandkids,” Earvin said. “They keep me young.”

A comfortable place

Brenda Nixon also thought of her five grandchildren when she got the vaccine.

“I want to visit with my grandchildren and I want to be safe,” said Nixon, a retired teacher.

Nixon and her husband, James, also a retired educator, received their injections at separate stations at the same time.

The church, which held the clinic in its gym, was an ideal place to hold a clinic, she said. It has plenty of parking, is on the bus route and is within walking distance for neighborhood residents. And the church is a comfortable, familiar place for many people.

“I think it is wonderful they are doing this,” Nixon said. “I think they should be at every church.”

‘Safety first’

Jennie Burress had COVID-19 in October. She developed pneumonia and it took two months for her lungs to fully recover.

“I don’t want to get it again,” she said. “It’s safety first.”

That’s why Burress looked forward to getting the vaccine.

She works as a cook for Covenant House, which provides shelter, education and vocational programs for homeless teens and young adults.

Working in an essential service, she takes precautions against the virus.

“This is going to give me more peace of mind,” she said.

And as a member of the congregation, Burress especially appreciated being able to receive the injection at New Hope Baptist Church.

“This is my home,” she said. “This is familiar. I am comfortable here.”