Billboard encourages COVID-19 vaccinations

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Local Rotary Clubs banded together to rent billboard space in hopes of persuading people who are driving by to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The fight to end polio is proof vaccines work. Let’s fight COVID-19 together,” reads the northbound billboard along St. Johns Boulevard south of NE 78th Street.

The Rotary Club of Three Creeks, serving areas north of Vancouver, and the Lewis River Rotary Club, serving areas in Battle Ground, purchased the advertisement space together.

Kelley Campbell, Rotary Club president of Three Creeks, said she received a call to action from Rotary International President Holger Knaack to increase awareness about positive impacts from vaccinations.

Campbell proposed the idea to the club’s board members and one of them suggested renting billboard space to get the message out.

“If we can encourage even just a couple more people to get a vaccine, that moves us as an entire community toward a better place where we can be reopened and back in person,” she said.

The board is estimated to reach 40,000 to 50,000 cars per week and it will stay up until the end of June.

“Our two clubs are so proud to do something to try and make a difference in ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lewis River Club President Linda Allen in a news release. “Rotary has made a difference around the world tackling polio. We just felt like this was a great opportunity for Rotary to take a lead in making a difference here at home knocking down COVID-19.”

The campaign relates the Rotary International members’ effort to end polio through vaccines starting in 1988, said Nelson Holmberg, Rotary Club of Three Creeks co-founder.

Currently, there are only two countries that reportedly have polio cases, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Holmberg said.

Annual polio cases have decreased by 99.9 percent since the 1988 initiative, according to the World Health Organization.

“It has largely been due to vaccinations that we’ve been able to create a world where polio really doesn’t exist anymore,” Holmberg said.

He describes the Rotary Club of Three Creeks as “not your grandpa’s Rotary.” More than 50 percent of members are under the age of 60.

“The public perception of Rotary is that it’s a bunch of old, white men who sit around a table and write fat checks,” Holmberg said. “That’s not our club at all. We do a lot of volunteer service.”

Campbell said the group completes at least one service project a month. During the pandemic, club members found ways to continue serving the community, like picking up trash in neighborhoods or by baking cookies for a neighbor.

As more people became vaccinated, the club was able to hold more outdoor cleanup events and food repacking events for the local food bank, she said.

The Rotary Club relies on one main event to fund a year’s worth of service, Campbell said. In March 2020, the group held its annual Dancing with the Local Stars, which raised about $40,000.

The club had to take a different approach this spring because of the pandemic. The fundraiser became Dining with the Local Stars in a “Chopped” format where nine local chefs raced to make the best dish. Then, the community could watch the pre-recorded videos from home.

The event brought in almost $55,000 worth of donations, Campbell said.

The Rotary of Three Creeks meets at 5:30 p.m. every first and third Thursday via Zoom.

“I think that it’s important to send a message, as an organization and as clubs, that we believe vaccines are a very viable way to address viruses, like polio and COVID-19,” Campbell said.

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