A line of people wait to enter the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, the first day that all Mainers 16 and older were eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Nearly 1,000 volunteers were a key part of the effort last year to set up and staff COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the 10-hospital Northern Light Health network.

The health care system this week said 925 volunteers helped at the vaccination clinics that formed a cornerstone of the state’s early vaccination strategy last spring when demand for the shots was at its highest. Northern Light released the figure in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, which is this week.

Those 925 volunteers donated 22,414 hours to help Northern Light’s COVID-19 response and vaccination effort. Of those volunteers, 800 were community members and 125 were salaried employees who volunteered additional time, Northern Light spokesperson Derek Hurder said. 

At the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Northern Light’s largest clinic, those hundreds of volunteers helped turn the arena into a well-oiled machine, said Stacey Coventry, director of Northern Light’s volunteer and community development services.

The hospital system in late January 2021 transformed the arena into an easy-to-navigate vaccination clinic in three days, and it became the first mass vaccination clinic to open in the state.

The volunteers “also offered a warm, friendly face that welcomed people and escorted them through the process, often easing the anxiety of many who came and were nervous about being vaccinated and navigating the size of the clinic,” Coventry said. 

The clinic opened on Feb. 2, 2021, and vaccinated about 1,800 people in its first week. On average, it took each patient 35 minutes to get a shot, including a 15-minute monitoring period after patients received the injection. 

In May 2021, Northern Light announced it reached the 100,000-vaccine mark. The Cross Insurance Center clinic closed later that month after demand dropped. 

The health system now has about 175 volunteers serving across 58 different roles, but the hospital system no longer needs volunteers to help vaccinate patients, according to Coventry. 

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...