CLEVELAND — For months now, we’ve heard about incentives being offered as a way to encourage folks to get the COVID-19 vaccine. There was Ohio’s Vax-A-million and many others offered by other agencies and states including gift cards, vouchers, and even concert tickets.
But Greater Cleveland Congregations has found that cold hard cash might be the most persuasive incentive of all.
It recently launched a series of vaccine clinics at churches on Cleveland’s east side called Dollars for Doses. People who get vaccinated at any of the clinics can walk away with cash in their pockets. The money comes from a prior grant GCC received.
The second of 16 clinics will be held this Saturday at Shiloh Baptist Church in the city’s Central neighborhood. Rev. Dr. Lisa Goods, the church’s senior pastor, said it's a community in dire need of help and attention.
“Central is the lowest-income neighborhood in the City of Cleveland. And it also has the lowest vaccination rate for African Americans as well as the highest social vulnerability index,” said Goods.
Last summer, Shiloh and other churches in the GCC joined together and raised money for a vaccine clinic where everyone who got a shot took home $50.
“It was a great success,” said Keisha Krumm, lead organizer and executive director of Greater Cleveland Congregations.
Krumm said GCC recently saw a report showing the Central neighborhood isn’t the only one with extremely low vaccination rates. So they decided to revisit their original idea with a twist.
“We were like, ‘Well, we know what our experience was in August. We know what the data says about cash incentives.’ So let's up the ante and say, we're going to give people a $100 bill to come and get their first shot, $50 for their second, $25 for their booster, and then we want to incentivize people to bring people to get vaccinated, so $25 for referrals. And so we rolled that out starting last week, and Shiloh will be the second clinic.”
The other sites include Elizabeth Baptist Church (Slavic Village); Antioch Baptist Church and Olivet Institutional Baptist Church (Fairfax); Lee Road Baptist Church (Lee-Harvard); Imani United Church of Christ (Euclid); and South Euclid United Church of Christ (South Euclid/Cleveland Heights).
The Centers for Families and Children are helping to administer the vaccines.
“We're just there to help vaccinate, help facilitate that and offer all the services we have, and letting people know too because with COVID, people have been locked up. So if they need primary care or counseling, because we do a lot of that, or some help to see a psychiatrist or anything like that, basic needs — we have all of that stuff. It's all-encompassing. And so that's kind of what we're there for is to be that resource community where we actually work,” said Eric Geyer, director of pharmacy at the Centers for Families and Children.
Krumm said the first clinic at Elizabeth Baptist Church on February 19 was a big hit.
“The first one exceeded our imagination, not our goals, our imagination. We thought maybe we would get 20 to 50 people to come out. We had 171 people,” said Krumm. “We actually were able to see from last week that the lowest vaccinated areas were some of our highest numbers of people who came to get vaccinated.”
Of those, 111 were first doses. In total, they gave away $15,000.
“I have a member who is a single mother with six children, whom I know is not vaccinated, and I said to her with your six children and yourself, that's $700—$100 per person for each first dose. That's more than a week's income on minimum wage,” said Goods.
Krumm and Goods said that instant gratification is the difference between Dollars for Doses and Ohio’s Vax-A-Million or other similar incentives.
“We did a number of canvases where we went out and actually talked with folks and part of what we began to see and as we talked to people, families go and give plasma and they get $50. And there are people that go, you know, multiple weeks in a month, and they get that money to pay their rent,” said Krumm. “And so it became clear to us that, you know, our families, and when they get those extra dollars, they're actually using them for rent and to help their kids. So that was one for us. It was like, ‘Okay, that makes sense.’”
“I think with the Vax-A-Million it was a great idea. You go get vaccinated because it's a community good and you didn't know if you were gonna get money or not. And if you're actually thinking about how am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to feed my kids? How am I gonna buy Pampers and milk? This becomes a real incentive,” said Krumm.
Plus, the comfort of getting vaccinated inside a trusted environment and with trusted people can’t be understated.
“This effort is coming directly from the churches. And so it is those institutions that have been trusted, that we are so concerned about our neighbors and our neighborhoods that we have put together this effort to make sure that everyone has the opportunity, and I do think as we begin to see mask mandates lifted and efforts kind of diminishing for vaccines and testing, those who have not been vaccinated are going to be left behind and left even more vulnerable. So it's really important that we do this now,” said Goods.
GCC is also partnering with Cleveland Metropolitan School District to get more young people vaccinated, especially at Shiloh’s vaccine clinic this weekend.
“There's a number of schools around this congregation and so there's going to be flyers going out and backpacks so there's a little bit more buzz and so, we're hoping, you know, for the same numbers or more,” said Krumm.
News 5 crews were at the church on March 5 for the third clinic.
GCC is accepting walk-ins at its vaccine clinics, but they are encouraging people to register beforehand so they have an appropriate number of vaccines and cash on hand to distribute. Click here to register.
Here’s a list of clinic locations:
March 19, 10 am - 2 pm: Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, 8712 Quincy Ave Cleveland 44104
April 2, 10 am - 2 pm: Imani United Church of Christ, 1505 E 260th St Euclid 44132
April 16, 10 am - 2 pm: Lee Road Baptist Church, 3970 Lee Rd. Cleveland 44128 (Easter Sunday)
April 30, 10 am - 2 pm: Elizabeth Baptist Church, 6114 Francis Ave Cleveland 44127
May 14, 10 am - 2 pm: Imani United Church of Christ, 1505 E 260th St Euclid 44132
May 28, 10 am - 2 pm: Lee Road Baptist Church, 3970 Lee Rd Cleveland 44128 (Memorial Day weekend)
June 11, 12 pm - 4 pm: Shiloh Baptist Church, 5500 Scovill Ave Cleveland 44104
June 25, 10 am - 2 pm: Antioch Baptist Church, 8869 Cedar Ave Cleveland 44106
July 9, 10 am - 2 pm: Elizabeth Baptist Church, 6114 Francis Ave Cleveland 44127
July 23, 10 am - 2 pm: Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, 8712 Quincy Ave Cleveland 44104
August 6, 12 pm - 4 pm: Shiloh Baptist Church, 5500 Scovill Ave Cleveland 44104
August 20, 10 am - 2 pm: Elizabeth Baptist Church, 6114 Francis Ave Cleveland 44127
September 10, 10 am - 2 pm: South Euclid United Church of Christ, 4217 Bluestone Rd Cleveland 44121
September 24, 10 am - 2 pm: Lee Road Baptist Church, 3970 Lee Rd. Cleveland 44128
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