Volunteers at Johnstown’s free medical clinic had just learned that the arrival of vaccine supply for Friday’s mass clinic was delayed and wouldn’t be ready for the scheduled 9 a.m. start time.
The group huddled with coordinator Francine Glass and began mapping out a new timeline. The Pfizer vaccine would be picked up at 9 a.m. Friday in Richland Township and transported to Senior LIFE Johnstown, where it would be prepared for the day’s clinic.
Because Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at negative 60 degrees Celsius – or negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit – the medicine must be thawed and then mixed before being administered.
“I wouldn’t have anyone come before at least 10:30,” Glass said.
The volunteers’ start time was also pushed from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Glass then started ticking off a mental list of other calls and arrangements to make, announcing she’d be headed home soon to get on the phone.
Despite the last-minute change, Friday’s vaccine clinic went off smoothly, with the first doses administered at about 9:30 a.m. By mid-afternoon, more than 700 arms had received second doses, Glass said.
Adjusting on the run is nothing new for the 63-year-old volunteer nurse who took on the vaccine program at Highlands Health: Laurel Highlands Free and Charitable Medical Clinic, 315 Locust St.
Once Glass agreed to coordinate the mass vaccination clinics, Executive Director Rosalie Danchanko knew the events would be successful.
“I just schedule clinics, and say, ‘By the way, can you get volunteers?’ ” Danchanko said. “She just smiles, and away she goes. She puts up with my insanity.”
Glass said the events are successful because of “the generosity of the community,” crediting physicians, nurses, technologists and numerous other volunteers.
“It’s a good group of people I have to organize to do this,” she said. “I truly appreciate their talents and skills and their time. I think everyone has a common goal: We just want to get back to some kind of normal life.”
‘Never slowed down’
Glass has been volunteering at the free clinic for eight years. She began shortly after retiring from a local family medical practice. A friend had suggested the opportunity.
“I wanted a little bit of a change, but I didn’t want to give up my nursing skills,” she said. “I am really happy I found this place and they took me. It’s rewarding on both ends.”
Glass had been coming in one or two mornings a week as a staff nurse. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, many of the clinic’s older volunteers stepped back due to health concerns.
Since March 2020, she has been at the clinic almost daily, including through its April 2020 move across Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Lee Campus.
“Francine, many days, single-handedly helped the doctor to see the patients,” Danchanko said. “She never slowed down.”
Glass said her time at the free clinic is more than an opportunity to help the community.
“Everybody works together for one common goal: to help the patient,” she said. “I never worked with such a cohesive group.”
‘Committed to helping’
Danchanko uses the words “amazing, humble, caring and committed” to describe Glass.
“She is one of those volunteers who is so committed to helping others,” Danchanko said. “She gives so much. She gives her whole being into helping us at the clinic. She even gives her husband.”
Dr. Samuel Glass, a retired ophthalmologist, regularly volunteers at the clinic, doing eye exams for patients with diabetes or other medical problems. The two met while both were working at the former Eye and Ear Hospital of Pittsburgh. They moved to the Johnstown area in 1984.
In addition to her volunteer work at the free clinic, Francine Glass works part-time at Westwood Floral and Gifts, 1778 Goucher St. While she is quick to say, “I’m not a florist,” the job dovetails with her love of gardening.
Baking and service to Beth Sholom synagogue are her other passions.
“I love to bake,” she said. “I used to have 40 or 45 people at my house for Passover Seder.”
She and her husband have three adult children. Their son Cory lives in Houston, Texas; daughter Leah lives in Pittsburgh; and daughter Stacee lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming.