Courtesy photo

The #VaxToNormal campaign is seeing strong numbers four weeks into the campaign, as it encourages community members to get vaccinated.

The #VaxToNormal campaign is a part of the Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund in partnership with Newman Regional Health and Lyon County Public Health. The campaign offers incentives to those who receive the COVID-19 vaccination, and works to promote vaccinations and increase access to the vaccine in Chase, Coffey, Greenwood, Lyon, Morris, Osage, Wabaunsee and Woodson counties.

The GEADRF is a local collaboration of the Emporia Community Foundation, Emporia Main Street, KVOE, and the United Way of the Flint Hills.

“At week one, we had a couple hundred entries and now we’re closer to 900,” said Jess Buchholz, community development coordinator at Emporia Main Street. “So I do feel like the community is responding well. We are seeing folks of all demographics and ages getting vaccinated and signed up, it’s been encouraging to see that.”

All participants have to do is register online through GEADRF,, once they receive the last vaccine shot. Each Friday, registrations are pulled and put in a wheel of names for an electric spin. The drawings are live each Friday on Facebook at Winners pick up prizes at Emporia Main Street with identification and vaccination card in hand. Sept. 10 is the drawing for a grand prize.

“The campaign is designed to thank those who have already gone and got their vaccinations and encourage folks to get vaccinated if they haven’t had the opportunity to do so,” Buchholz said. “Anyone is eligible to participate in the campaign as long as you’re eligible to get a vaccination or if you live locally or are a student with FHCT or Emporia State.”

Vaccinations are available for those 12 and up.

United Way is one of the four agencies that is part of GEADRF.

“We really focus on improving three areas of our community’s life- health, education and financial stability — and we feel very strongly that this campaign really touches on two of those — really three of them- in more indirect ways,” said Mickey Edwards, United Way executive director. “Health is the obvious connection for us. For education, we don’t want schools to close, and we saw the financial instability last year and that is why we were thrilled to be part of the disaster relief group. We knew we could make a difference.”

The agency is assisting with a drive-thru vaccination clinic from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. Saturday, July 10, at Riverside Elementary School.

“We’re trying to give people an opportunity who might work on the weekdays,” she said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is bring the vaccination to people in an easier way. It’s not always 8 to 5 that you go to your medical provider and get your vaccine. We want to make sure everyone has access to vaccines,” she said.

Every individual who is vaccinated at the event will receive a $10 Emporia Main Street gift certificate that can be spent at local retailers and restaurants. An appointment is not required, but can be made by going to

Justin Ogleby, marketing manager at Flint Hills Community Health, is not surprised registrations are not higher for the drive-through clinic July 10.

”At this stage of the pandemic, most people who want a vaccine and have the means to get it, have already done so,” he said. “We are now targeting those people who either have barriers to getting the vaccine or it isn’t a priority for them. Hopefully this clinic will break through some of the those barriers and the #VaxToNormal incentives will help prioritize the vaccine for people. We are expecting most of the people to show up to the clinic on July 10 to be people without appointments.”

Funding from the campaign comes from GEADRF, private donations and prizes were donated from local businesses ranging with an average of $50-$100. United Way also secured a grant from the Kansas Leadership Center initiative Kansas Beats the Virus.

“A lot of businesses are behind this because they understand we have a short window during the warmer summer months to get vaccinated so when it gets cooler and people go inside we don’t see spread,” said Casey Woods, Emporia Main Street executive director. “An ounce of prevention right now is worth several pounds of cure. This is a smart play for our region- to get people vaccinated — from a business standpoint, from a community health standpoint, from a policy standpoint. It’s a smart move for us financially.”

The grand prize value is more than $1,000 — including an ESU package and two years of free car washes at Mr. G’s Car Wash.

“I always say Emporia is a really giving community,” Buchholz said. “During the pandemic people really came out and supported local businesses and organizations and I think the #VaxToNormal campaign is just a continuation of that support.”

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