After AK Parks watched her older family members struggle to schedule coronavirus vaccination appointments online, she wondered how she could help senior adults in her community.
Beginning with elderly residents in her neighborhood of West Towson, she later expanded to include those in Cockeysville, Hunt Valley and Lutherville-Timonium.
Since she started in February, she has scheduled more than 100 vaccination appointments for seniors across the county.
A wife, mother of 2- and 4-year-old boys and a part-time independent contractor who helps businesses with marketing and social media, Parks is savvy with technology.
After helping her next-door neighbor schedule an appointment, she said requests for help quickly poured in.
“Once I figured out how to get [my mother-in-law and father-in-law] appointments, I thought, ‘I need to help get [my neighbor] an appointment’ and then [requests] snowballed from there,” said the 38-year-old.
Initially connecting with community members by word of mouth, she later set up an online form where they can fill out basic information, such as their name, address, age and the distance they are willing to travel for an appointment. Using the information provided, she then schedules an appointment at the closest pharmacy.
So far, she has located appointments at CVS Pharmacy, Giant, Rite Aid, Safeway and Walgreens.
To find appointments, she said she logs onto each pharmacy website either early in the morning or late at night to see what, if anything, is available. Throughout the day, she keeps internet tabs open on her computer and periodically refreshes the page to see if appointments have become available.
Although her children are young, she said she has explained to her 4-year-old that by helping their neighbors, they will get to see their grandchildren again.
“I’ve told [my son] a little bit about [the vaccine],” she said. “One of the first people besides his grandparents that I’ve helped was our next-door neighbor who he has met with every day, so I’ve had to explain to him why I wanted to help get her one.”
Parks said she has received an outpouring of gratitude in response to her efforts.
“I’ve gotten thank-you cards and gift cards and Edible Arrangements and gifts for my children,” she said. “I know people are grateful, but the words that people are saying like, ‘I haven’t seen my grandchildren in a year, and I can’t wait to hug [them] again,’ are the most heartwarming.”
Debbie and Ken Dawsey, 78, of Towson, had been waiting to schedule an appointment for a month.
Unable to get appointments at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore City or the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, they later tried CVS Pharmacy, Giant and Walgreens, but had no luck.
After learning of Parks’ endeavors to help seniors schedule appointments from a friend and neighbor, they immediately reached out for help.
“[Parks] is an absolute angel,” Debbie Dawsey said. “She took this whole load sitting on my shoulders and sitting on my chest and relieved it. I can’t say enough nice things about people who do that.”
On Feb. 11, the couple received their first dose of the vaccine and are scheduled to receive the second dose on March 11.
Dianne and Jim Thompson, 76, of Towson, also were able to receive their vaccinations with Parks’ help.
They got their first dose on Feb. 13 and are scheduled for the second on March 13.
They said they are relieved to have received the first dose and are looking forward to reaching immunity two weeks after the second dose.
“[The vaccine] is like the light at the end of the tunnel and the hope that things are going to get a little bit more back to normal,” Dianne Thompson said.
Although Parks has not yet received her vaccination, she said it means a lot to her to help her neighbors obtain theirs.