How Oasis is Making a Difference During the Pandemic

TelephoneIn January 2021, Oasis set out to help address disparities experienced by community members who do not have access to the internet or tech devices and who could use assistance registering to get the COVID vaccine. Staff and a host of more than 30 Oasis volunteers reached out by telephone to residents in the St. Louis area to aid with COVID vaccine registration.

This altruistic group has made over 1,500 telephone calls to-date. The interaction has been nothing short of rewarding and intriguing for staff, volunteers and those receiving the calls.

Compelled to enrich the lives of older adults through its mission of lifelong learning, health, wellness and engagement, Oasis demonstrates commitment to community through its partnership approach to improve health and wellness outcomes.

Currently, Oasis staff and volunteers continue to make phone calls to St. Louisans with the goal of decreasing health disparities by increasing the opportunity to receive the COVID vaccine –one phone call at a time.

Read below for more on volunteers and staff experiences.

My Story: Sharon Hales, Oasis Community Outreach Manager

Sharon HalesCommunity Outreach Manager Sharon Hales started with Oasis in 1993. Hales developed a small pilot project, Oasis Friends, that would become a full time position in 1994 and a successful Oasis inclusion program.

Community and inclusion have always been important to Sharon, as well as many other social causes. So, when the Oasis Institute President Paul Weiss approached Hales to coordinate an effort of calling individuals in the St. Louis region who did not have access to the internet, technology equipment or computer skills to register for the COVID vaccine online, Hales became inspired. She soon motivated others to join the work. Hales not only embraced the cause but recruited a team of more than 30 Oasis volunteers who felt the same urgency to reach the older adults and those most vulnerable in the community. It was not long after that Oasis volunteers began recruiting their family and friends to volunteer, too!

People were delighted to receive a personal phone call and the help they needed to register. Hales recalls that some even affectionately called Oasis volunteers God’s angels. It became evident rather quickly to the volunteer team that several of the people to whom they had spoken were in poor health and most thankful for the call.

“There is a poster that hangs in my office. It reads, ‘Within the heart of a community, everyone belongs.’ Oasis volunteers made it possible for over one thousand people to belong in this process and to know the community cares,” says Hales.

My Story: Karla and Jim Toal, Oasis Volunteers

A former executive of May Department Stores and Macys, Karla Toal retired from the workforce nine years ago and decided it was important for her to stay connected and involved in community. For nearly seven years, Toal has given her time to support the mission of St. Louis Oasis as an active member and lead volunteer.

When asked to help make calls to reach older adults and those most vulnerable in the St. Louis community who wanted to register for the vaccine but did not have access or equipment to sign-up, Toal did not hesitate. She joined the team of volunteers and also recruited husband, Jim, to help. The Toals made a total of 150 telephone calls to residents in the St. Louis area.

“My husband and I were fortunate to get our vaccines in early February after doing a lot of research and registering at every possible provider. I realized that not everyone had the ability to do that and felt that some of the more at-risk people were left behind. Volunteering to register people was a way to give back and to hopefully get some of the older, more vulnerable and most deserving people a place in line,” states Karla.

Toal vividly recalls the profuse gratitude people expressed, sharing how much she had made their day by calling to assist registration.

“We started making calls at the beginning of February. At that point, no one we called had registered or had an appointment for a vaccination. When we made calls a little over a week ago, many people had found a way to get help registering. Others had appointments, and many had already gotten their vaccinations,” reflects Toal. “We are making progress. If you know someone who does not have internet access or may need help for another reason, please reach out to them. It feels good to help.”

My Story: Steve Glickman, Oasis Volunteer

Steve Glickman

Steve Glickman retired from CPI Corporation in 2015 and still works part-time as a consultant at School Telecom. Glickman began his journey as an Oasis participant more than 10 years ago. He recently received a call from longtime friends Jim and Karla Toal inviting him to participant in an Oasis effort that would help people register to get the COVID vaccine. Glickman was eager to lend a hand and graciously joined the volunteer team, making a total of 50 calls.

Glickman says, “Many times, the people who I helped to register were so grateful this service was being provided, because they had no other means to sign up for the vaccine. They were frustrated by the inability to reach the right source to get on a list, too.”

Glickman will never forget how satisfying it was to assist people in this endeavor during the pandemic. He hopes more people will join the effort so that everyone who wants to register to receive the vaccine has been contacted.

My Story: Sue Picus, Oasis Volunteer

After a 15 year career as a Clinical Registered Dietitian, Sue Picus decided to stay at home full time with her children. Later, she took on a new role as an active volunteer at her children’s school and in the community. Sue began serving as an Oasis volunteer instructor in 2012 and continues to support the organization today.

When asked to help make calls to reach community residents who needed assistance registering for the COVID vaccine, she was happy to volunteer.

“At heart, I am still a healthcare worker and feel frustrated that I am not able to help more with the COVID crisis,” Picus says. “I also was troubled about folks who were not computer savvy who may have not been able to register for the vaccine online. This was a perfect fit to help these folks.”

Volunteering for Picus is nothing new. She finds enjoyment volunteering at Oasis and connecting with program participants – many of whom are adults 75 year of age and up.

Picus says, “When I made the calls, I felt just like I was talking to the folks who come to the Oasis classes I teach. Although I have only made 43 calls so far, all of the people I have spoken with have been so appreciative of the help, and they are happy to finally get registered for the vaccine.”

People were delighted to know that someone cared and reached out to offer support. When asked what she wanted others to know, Picus wasted no time reflecting on just how meaningful and easy it was for her to make the calls.

“It was a nice way to contribute to the overall effort to get community members vaccinated,” Picus replied.

For more information on how you can register for the COVID vaccine, visit or