WILLMAR Kandiyohi County has provided more than 8,500 vaccinations to county residents via drive-through clinics this year.

Thursday at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building, county officials honored the 67 volunteers who worked at the clinics. The volunteers were also told their jobs may not be done, even though the county has discontinued the COVID-19 vaccination clinics for now.

In addition to certificates of appreciation and gift certificates from area business, the group of about 30 people who attended went through a debriefing. They talked about what worked well — and not so well — during the clinics, as well as ideas for future improvements.

The county’s Public Health and Emergency Management departments organized 37 COVID-19 vaccination clinics — 22 provided first-dose shots, and 15 provided second doses.

The volunteers were dedicated and sometimes stood in freezing temperatures, rain or hot sun, said Health and Human Services Director Jennie Lippert. They donated a total of 1,160 hours.

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“Thank you for your time,” she said.

The volunteers came from a variety of backgrounds. Some are members of the Community Emergency Response Team in Willmar, some work in health care, some are retirees or have other roles in the community.

The county has an emergency preparedness plan, and a Rescue Squad Building designed to accommodate mass vaccinations, but preparations to face the pandemic were “challenging to say the least,” said Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Karen Ampe.

An already busy Public Health Department had to decide what services to keep doing and what might need to be suspended, she said.

“There were things behind the scenes that people didn’t realize,” she said.

During the pandemic thus far, county workers delivered supplies to more than 110 people who were in quarantine. They called nearly 1,900 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 to discuss their next steps.

They worked with many businesses to help them develop safety protocols.

The debriefing Thursday uncovered a few issues, like a need for better signs and maps. But if someone brought up a problem during a clinic, it was remedied right away, one of the volunteers said.

Volunteers also praised the teamwork during the clinics and ability to respond to unexpected events, like a vehicle with multiple people inside.

When asked to comment on their volunteer experience, they said things like “fulfilling,” “impressive and gratifying,” and “nice being part of a great team.”

One volunteer asked what Ampe meant when she told the volunteers she was holding them “in pause.”

Ampe said, “Well, I don’t want to tell you that I’m not ever going to use you again, because if the variant changes enough that the vaccine does not hold it, and they have to develop a new one, we could be back to square one.”

At some point, she said, she may need to send an email to “rally the troops.”