When Wendy Hobbs was invited to attend the Sunday morning service at Antioch Baptist Church as a guest last Sunday, she knew it had something to do with her recent efforts to help make sure as many members of the congregation as possible had access to the COVID-19 vaccination.
What she didn’t know, however, was that the entire day had been dedicated to her.
A former prison warden and current president of the Goochland NAACP, Hobbs doesn’t get flustered easily. But even she admits that it was hard not to get just a little emotional when she looked down at her church program and realized that the church members had declared Sunday as “Wendy Hobbs Day.”
According to Antioch Deacon Dr. Wilbert Ware, the recognition of Hobbs was meant to honor her for her tireless efforts on behalf of the many local senior citizens — many of them people of color — that Hobbs helped connect with vaccination appointments earlier this year.
“We just wanted to recognize her and thank her for the work that she did,” said Ware, noting that Hobbs had personally seen to it that over 125 members of the church received the vaccine.
Hobbs explained that it was important to her, particularly in her role as the head of the local NAACP chapter, to ensure that Black residents had equitable access to vaccinations. When she reached out to the Chickahominy Health District to see what she could do to further that mission, they presented her with an offer: They would give her vaccination slots if she would find the people to fill them.
Hobbs, as is her nature, jumped in with both feet. Starting in February, she began using every possible resource she could think of to reach residents who wanted to be vaccinated. Oftentimes people would reach out to her with their frustrations over not being able to make a vaccination appointment and she would quickly get them signed up. On the first day she was given a list of appointment times, Hobbs said, she signed up 265 people.
She then signed up 100 more, then another hundred. By the time April came and access to the vaccine began to be open to all, Hobbs had signed up over 1,200 people.
Despite the countless hours she spent on the vaccination effort, Hobbs insists it never felt like a burden to her.
“I was just happy to do it,” she said Sunday. “Because the sooner they could get the shot the sooner we could get back to some sort of normalcy.”
Hobbs said it was truly a joy to be able to help, particularly seniors and those who otherwise might have struggled to get their vaccine.
Said Hobbs: “It was just so nice to see the relief on their faces when they could finally say ‘I got my shot.’”