NewsInspiring South Florida


Boca Raton mother helping seniors book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Volunteer secures 130 appointments for seniors
Carolina Gonzalez
Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 18:32:51-05

BOCA RATON, Fla. — A Boca Raton woman is becoming known as a fairy godmother of sorts for seniors looking to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine. The mother of three children has already helped more than 100 seniors get the vaccine.

For 74-year-old grandmother Joan Schnell, because of the pandemic, it's been awhile since she's been able to see many of her friends and family.

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"Like everybody else, it's masks. It's gloves. It's sanitizer. It was staying home," Schnell said.

Schnell lives alone in Florida.

"I had to cancel my Thanksgiving plans, like everybody else. I did get to see two or three friends that I see regularly, so I was able to socialize a little bit," Schnell said.

Joan Schnell (right) and her friend Arlene
Joan Schnell (right) and her friend Arlene Herson say Carolina Gonzalez's help has been invaluable in helping seniors like them get appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.

When the COVID-19 vaccine became available in the Sunshine State, she and her friend Arlene went to work.

"We were just determined to get this vaccine," Herson said.

They tried online and in-person but did not have any luck.

"Like everybody else, I was on all the websites. I even made an appointment for March 1 at Baptist Health. [However], they sent me an email canceling my appointment [saying], 'Sorry we don't have enough,'" Herson said.

That's when she got a call from a friend that linked her up with Carolina Gonzalez.

"I've actually written down names with where I was able to secure their appointments, and the tally is over 130," Gonzalez said.

She said it started with helping her grandmother, a breast cancer survivor who doesn't speak English.

"I booked for her, and I also booked for family friends. Once I got in the website, I started calling anyone I could think was in the age bracket," Gonzalez said.

Now, the teacher and mother of three is one of the moderators of a Facebook group giving seniors information on the vaccines.

"Whether they don't even have the ability to use their hands well enough to type and get on a phone or on a computer, I’ve heard these stories loud and clear," Gonzalez said.

And these seniors are feeling the impact.

“Hero is a good, good title for Carolina. That there is someone out there that is willing to help. That will give their time and energy and not ask for anything in return," Herson said.