Kristen Callahan, UMMC project manager, asks Earl Boone of Jackson screening questions before he received his COVID-19 vaccine April 21 at UMMC's EversCare.
Kristen Callahan, UMMC project manager, asks Earl Boone of Jackson screening questions before he received his COVID-19 vaccine April 21 at UMMC's EversCare.
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Groceries aren’t only 'shot in the arm' offered by EversCare

Published on Monday, April 26, 2021

By: Ruth Cummins

When Earl Boone stopped by to pick up a tote bag of groceries at the Jackson Medical Mall, he left with an unexpected extra: his first COVID-19 shot.


“Because they asked me,” Boone, a Jackson resident, said of employees and volunteers with the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s EversCare.

Housed at the Jackson Medical Mall, EversCare addresses social determinants of health needs, including food insecurity, housing, education, literacy, personal safety and transportation by connecting people with the resources that can improve their quality of life and enhance health outcomes.

Jackson resident Earl Boone shows off a sticker proclaiming he's been vaccinated for COVID-19 seconds after receiving the shot April 21 at UMMC's EversCare.
Boone shows off a sticker proclaiming he's been vaccinated for COVID-19 moments after receiving his shot on April 21 at UMMC's EversCare.

Every third Wednesday of the month, a double line of cars snakes around the EversCare food pantry location, a former grocery store building that’s also occupied by the Jackson Urban League. All who come receive free groceries and cases of bottled water.  But the distribution on April 21 included the offer of a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and a return appointment for the second dose.

The lines began moving at 10 a.m., although dozens of cars took their place hours earlier. By 11, about 200 of the 300 food bags prepared earlier that morning had been distributed, meaning they’d be depleted before the line was to shut down at 1 p.m.

Mississippi is ranked as one of the most food insecure states in the nation, meaning large numbers of people are unsure on a day-to-day basis whether they’ll have enough food to feed themselves or their families. To inquire about receiving food, send an email to EversCare@umc.edu.

Portrait of Vickki Gholar

“Everybody shows up,” said Vikki Gholar, director of strategic initiatives and resource management in UMMC’s John D. Bower School of Population Health. “The lines were extremely long today.”

But all are welcome, and a mass of volunteers that included students from Jackson State University, members of JSU’s Air Force ROTC, UMMC employees and American Heart Association staff greeted them warmly.

All told, UMMC nurses gave out about seven free vaccines – but that was because most people in line said they’d already received it.

Portrait of Margaret Head

“I was surprised at the number who said they were vaccinated. Some people said they did not want it, but many more than that said they had already gotten it,” said Margaret Head, UMMC’s chief ambulatory officer for adult clinics.

“But everyone was appreciative, even if they’d already received it. I talked to a 93-year-old woman in her car. She said that she and her twin had gone to Yazoo County and gotten their shots.”

The vaccine distribution was a joint effort between EversCare and UMMC administration. EversCare is part of the Medical Center’s Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities.

 “We work closely with EversCare and have an everyday relationship with them,” Head said. “This is a great partnership. We want to help get the vaccine to the underserved population who might not have access, or who might be scared.”

Jackson retiree Georgia Williams said she accepted the offer of a vaccine because it was convenient. “I was planning on getting it, but I was procrastinating. I don’t think there’s anything harmful about it,” she said. “I’m thinking about getting my 95-year-old mom vaccinated.”

When Boone pulled through the line and said he’d like the vaccine, UMMC project manager Kristen Callahan asked him a series of screening questions before registered nurse and ambulatory educator Candice Johnson stuck the needle in his arm.

“Shots don’t bother me,” said Boone, who owns a computer and camera tech business. “When I had COVID, I had residual effects. It was really bad. I hope the shots help put me back to normal.”

He’s also getting the vaccine for his mother’s benefit. “I’m going to Chicago to visit her, and I want her to be protected,” Boone said. “We’re trying to get her to get the shot, but she won’t do it. She’s stubborn. She’s in her 90s.”

Glen Allan resident Jimmy Edwards holds still as he receives a COVID-19 shot, one of the services offered April 21 at the once-a-month food distribution by UMMC's EversCare.
Jimmy Edwards of Glen Allan remains still while he receives his COVID-19 shot April 21 at UMMC's EversCare.

Jimmy Edwards of Glen Allan, a driver for the Bolivar County Council on Aging, transports Delta residents to the Medical Mall. He accepted the offer of a vaccine in part because his job puts him in contact with the public.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about the shot. I was skeptical at first, but some of my family talked to me about it. They took it,” Edwards said.

Making the vaccine accessible to all is critical, Gholar and Head say.

“Many of the people we serve are in multigenerational households,” Gholar said. “These efforts make a difference.”

Any UMMC provider or staff member can refer a patient to EversCare for a wide range of services, Head said. EversCare “is such a good resource for assistance with food, housing, transportation and medical literacy,” she said.

Head encourages the community to get the vaccine at the UMMC vaccine clinic located in the Jackson Medical Mall, or at drive-through sites statewide coordinated through the Mississippi State Department of Health.  Make an appointment at covidvaccine.umc.edu or by calling (601) 815-3351 for an appointment at the Medical Mall clinic.

“We have plenty of vaccine, and plenty of appointments,” she said.