June 2, 2021
By Marion Vendituoli

Marilyn Miller is looking forward to having time to spend in her garden this summer. Since January, the Patagonia resident has been devoting her time and energy to help the Santa Cruz County effort to vaccinate residents against COVID. She showed up to help when the vaccine site at the Hohokam Recreation Center in Nogales opened in January, and after just one week was asked to take over as volunteer coordinator. 

Miller has served as coordinator there for the past five months, recruiting and scheduling up to twenty volunteers each day to check people in, sanitize equipment and fixtures, do COVID screening, check appointments, direct traffic, and escort people through the facility. 

400 – 700 people have been going through the center each day, according to Miller. “Why our center is so well run is because they listened to Emergency Management on flow,” Miller said. “The Mariposa Clinic and the County Health Department worked together. The flow was designed to make it easy, no long waits. It’s just so efficiently run.” 

 “It’s so great. You have these people who have been cooped up in their homes, isolated and then they come in to a get a shot and they are so ecstatic, joyous, thrilled. They come out pumping their arms, old ladies and old men,” she said. “Workers who had colleagues die, who had the disease go through their entire warehouse or grocery store, and they are so happy that there is a solution. They didn’t want to take the disease back to their families.”   

Before she retired four years ago, Miller taught English as a second language to international graduate students and to refugees for 20 years, taught University faculty members to become better instructors and worked for USDA in leadership development. 

She and her husband, Steve Finch, had been visiting family in Patagonia for over 40 years and moved here full time eight years ago, where they became involved in several community organizations. Miller believes that her training as a member of the Patagonia Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) prepared her for her job at the vaccine center. She is also President of the Friends of the Patagonia Library, serves on the Patagonia Elementary School Board, and, pre-COVID, volunteered at the Methodist Thrift Shop. 

The vaccine center is scheduled to be shut down the third week of June. Presently the Center is accepting walk-ins as well as people with appointments. Miller urges everyone to take precautions against catching the virus. “You have a right to your opinion,” she said. “But the thing you might consider if you have children or other people who depend on you, wear a mask or get a vaccination because they need you to stay alive.”