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Early on a frosty, gray winter morning, Gerald Zawaski pulls up to the curb on a desolate strip of South Canal Street in Chicago.
He steps out of a white and blue van and knows today will be a good day. Why? He’s going to be helping others. Gerry has just pulled the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) Care Van in front of Pacific Garden Mission, a shelter that provides physical, mental, emotional and spiritual support to thousands of Chicago’s homeless. The van is a mobile health clinic that will be offering immunizations to the men, women and children who call the shelter their temporary home.
Gerry is one of two men who drive the BCBSIL Care Van, which is operated jointly with the Chicago Department of Public Health. His territory is within the city limits, but he covers a lot of ground, from the far North Side to the far South Side and everything in between. BCBSIL has three mobile health vans, and in 2015 the vans provided 14,500 free immunizations across Illinois and provided information to help 11,000 people learn how to obtain and use health insurance.
“It’s a great job because there are instant results every day,” Zawaski says.
Jose Guereca is the other driver – a job he knows well. He served in the United States Army and National Guard as a transportation operator specialist in the Middle East.
“I am blessed and fortunate to be able to be a part of the Care Van program, being able to help my community and the rest of Chicago be healthy, is a blessing in itself,” Guereca says. “I am part of a mobile clinic that visits schools, churches, public housing, community events, etc., and conduct immunization outreach where at-risk families live and work. Many families go without the necessary immunizations to lead healthy, happy lives due to a lack of affordability and access to medical care. Yet, immunizing children is one of the most direct, simple and least expensive ways to build healthier futures for medically underserved families in Chicago. I am a part this and I love it.”Click here to learn where Gerry and Jose will be driving the Chicago Care Van next.Originally published on March 25, 2016.
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