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Batavia woman honored for aiding seniors amid pandemic

Wed May 19, 2021

In the throes of the pandemic, senior citizens throughout the Batavia region found the almost “Hunger Games” –like battle to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment to be not only frustrating, but downright daunting.

Initially, there was no handy telephone number to call. Instead, doses of the vaccine weren’t plentiful, most doctor’s offices didn’t yet have them, and booking appointments had to be made online only. Some providers loaded open appointment slots in the middle of the night, or at seemingly odd hours, making the quest to find an opening even more difficult.

Enter Batavia mom Erin Cluts.

In January, Cluts began hunting down and booking vaccine appointments for Batavia-area seniors, many of whom couldn’t navigate the labyrinthine online system. To date, Cluts has helped an estimated 100 or more seniors secure vaccine appointments.

In honor of her devotion, the Batavia Park District’s Batavia Senior Citizens Club (BSCC) and Mayor Jeffery Schielke proclaimed May 19 Erin Cluts Day.

Cluts received a framed copy of the official proclamation during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at Big Woods Park in Batavia, during the BSCC’s monthly meeting. This was the first in-person meeting for BSCC members since February 2020. Big Woods Park is located at 1063 S. Raddant Road.

“It is about celebrating our community and what we do in difficult times,” Cluts said after the ceremony. “It’s also important to me to model to my kids that you don’t sit around and complain. You do what we can to get ourselves out of this dark time. We help each other, and we teach our kids how to help each other.”

Cluts is quick to say that she wasn’t the only person helping seniors book appointments.

“She will very quickly be humble. She may think her piece was small, but it’s a pretty important piece in a big machine,” said Laurie Musielak, a New Horizons Preschool teacher. “She’s pretty important for our Batavia community. I’m so incredibly proud of her.”

Fred Rogers’ famous advice to “look for the helpers” was at the forefront for Cluts.

“She saw, early on, the need to identify the helpers in this pandemic,” Musielak said. “This was one small way she could be a helper and she helped in a big way.”

Cluts helped one woman who had been trying for weeks to book an appointment, and whose daughter had been trying, as well.

“Within minutes, she had her booked,” Musielak said. “There is such a sense of relief. This individual was so grateful and relieved -- and just stunned it could be done so quickly.”

Robin Soderquist, the Park District recreation supervisor in charge of senior programming, said Cluts also arranged for one of her own neighbors to drive another senior about an hour away for a vaccine appointment because that senior didn’t drive.

“It is about celebrating our community and what we do in difficult times,” Cluts said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the community and what we do when we come together.”

Cluts, a frequent participant in the Park District’s fitness classes, initially told fellow class members she would like to help seniors book vaccine appointments, Soderquist said. That turned into announcements being made in a host of the district’s fitness classes and it spiraled to members of the BSCC and the broader senior community.

Cluts, who has been taking Park District classes since 2013 and whose two sons attended the district’s New Horizons Preschool, lives in Batavia with her boys and husband, Geoff.

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