Gary church hosts COVID vaccine event, offers $50 per shot after pastor overcomes virus

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- For the third consecutive week, Sunday services at Beyond 4 Walls Christian Center in Gary, Indiana were held outdoors.

Members are skittish, once again, as the Delta variant takes hold of the Miller Beach community, where vaccination rates are lagging,

A little over 38% of eligible residents in zip code 46403 are fully vaccinated, which is why church leaders chose to host a mobile vaccination clinic Sunday.

"It became important for me when, on February 13, I contracted COVID. And it was the worst 17 days of my life," said Dr. Maurice White, pastor at Beyond 4 Walls Christian Center.

"People are confused. They don't know who to believe and who to trust. And so we're trying to let them know we've been through it and because we've through it, we don't want you to go through it -- so just please take the vaccine," added Rev. Elisia White, Beyond 4 Walls Christian Center

Those who received their shots Sunday also got an incentive: $50 for the first shot and another $50 for the second, in addition to gift cards for a nearby restaurant.

Organizers said if this is what they have to do, so be it.

While infection rates remain lower in Lake County, Indiana than elsewhere around the state, they are creeping up.

"This county is not yet in the orange zone, which is over 10%, so we feel pretty happy that we haven't gotten there," said Tracy Lewis with Community Advocates of Northern Indiana.

While no one ABC7 spoke with Sunday mentioned the cash bonus as motivation, everyone did talk about needing time, to make sure the vaccine was safe before getting it themselves.

"I had gotten COVID back in November and it was pretty rough, and I don't want it again," said Michelle Lyons, who got vaccinated Sunday.

"I have an auto-immune disorder and I was just trying to wait till my doctor said it was OK and he said it's OK," added Bobby Wilson, who also got vaccinated.

Recognizing that partnerships with religious institutions work, a similar event is being planned two weeks from now on the opposite end of the city at Christ Center Church.
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