CH resident and bakeries give 'sweet' thank you to Wolstein vaccinators

Debra Franke and Brigadier General Rebecca O'Connor at the Wolstein Center.

Maybe like many of you, I went through many emotional stages during this pandemic. It started with disbelief; then, disbelief turned to shock. Shock gave way to cautious optimism last spring and summer and fall, when we understood that we could be outside with others in a socially distanced kind of way. Cold weather and social isolation turned that optimism to a gray kind of emotion and lethargy. News of the vaccine brought equal parts hope and frustration. That’s where this story starts.

The vaccine, our way out of this mess, was an absolute blessing this winter. But the supply was limited, and the process of scheduling an appointment was fractured. With no central appointment system, senior citizens had to use many different websites to find an elusive appointment. For those with limited computer access or skills, it was difficult.

After almost a year of hiding from the virus, I found a way to help others—and myself, in the process. As a retired IT worker, I had plenty of skills to navigate those websites, and all the time in the world.

I started small with just my husband’s appointment, then a cousin, another cousin, a friend, and then a friend of a friend. Ultimately, through word of mouth, I helped many complete strangers (now friends) get their appointments. Each appointment felt like a victory against this dreadful virus. In the early days, looking for appointments was like playing the slot machines. You never knew when you were going to hit the jackpot. Helping people get appointments felt good, but it felt even better to know that I was helping take away their worry. Helping them helped me climb out of my dark winter hole.

Then came the Wolstein mass-vaccination site. Appointments were easy to get. I was able to help more and more people. Feedback was positive. Every person came away saying how wonderful it was; that the military and FEMA had thought of everything. The process was efficient. Social distancing was so good that everyone felt safe. Every single person emphasized how kind everyone at the center was. They mentioned easy parking, police crossing guards, quick check-in, translators for many languages, a special entrance for people who needed fewer steps and stairs, padded seats, comfortable temperatures, and kindness everywhere. Very well done.

Now, about that thank you. After hearing all that positive feedback, I wanted to do something to thank the staff at the Wolstein Center. They have been there since February, saving lives. The idea of a sweet thank you was born. Anyone who knows anything about Cleveland knows that we have great food and even better bakeries. It was easy to collect more than 1,000 cookies for the thank-you gift.  Bakeries in Cleveland Heights and other parts of Greater Cleveland said YES, and then delivered on the promise. On Thursday, April 29, we delivered those cookies as a thank you to all the people working at the Wolstein Center. 

The sweet thank you was from me and these wonderfully generous businesses: Pro Bake, Zagara’s Marketplace, Insomnia Cookies, The Stone Oven, Blackbird Baking Company, The Sweet Fix Bakery, Presti’s Bakery, and On the Rise. Thank you to everyone at the Wolstein Center, and all these amazingly generous businesses that joined in to thank them.


Wolstein Center COVID vaccinations - walk-ups welcome

Walk-up vaccinations are available through May 17, and are open to anyone 16 and older. Walk-up hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. No identification is necessary. Interpretation services are available on-site. Vaccinations are free, and free parking is available.

You can save time by getting an appointment at this website: (enter 44115 for the zip code), or call 833-427-5634. There are many appointments available.

The Wolstein Center is located at 2000 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, 44115.

Free transportation for groups of 20 or more

If you have 20 or more people to be vaccinated, you can arrange free door-to-door service to the Wolstein Center vaccination clinic ( Call 216-615-6313 to arrange for an RTA bus. You'll just need to provide the pick-up time and location.

You can also call  2-1-1 for information about other free transportation options to the vaccine clinic at the Wolstein Center.

Debra Franke

Debra Franke is a five-year resident of Cleveland Heights. She and her husband aselected Cleveland Heights as their retirement home, and moved here from York, Pa. An avid attendee of jazz and classical music events, Franke, in retirement, now has time to indulge her interest in gardening.

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Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 11:56 AM, 05.04.2021