Three days a week, Cece Krokenberger, a certified nurse and TestMV volunteer, helps people get tested for COVID-19. Krokenberger is one of several volunteers that have kept the massive testing operation running smoothly since it began testing in June.
Krokenberger first came to the Island in the 80s when she was in college. She came back after finishing school and worked at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital as a traveling nurse. After getting married, Krokenberger and her husband eventually bought a home in 1996. Originally summer people, Krokenberger and her husband began staying on the Island longer and longer each year. For the past two years she’s split time between her home in Katama and her home in Florida.
“I fell in love with the Island,” Krokenberger said. “This is what feels like home to us.”
Wanting to avoid the summer crowds during the pandemic, Krokenberger and her husband decided to stay at their home in Florida through the summer before coming to the Island at the end of August.It was during this time that Krokenberger began reading about the TestMV site and the free testing it was offering people on the Vineyard. “I thought, you know, let me just see if they need any help. When I got here I thought, I have the skill set, I’d love to help out and get involved with something that has to do with this pandemic,” she said.
By the beginning of September, Krokenberger was helping test the Island. She began by volunteering two days a week for half day shifts, now she’s up to three days a week at the testing site which has conducted more than 26,000 tests.
Krokenberger is no stranger to volunteering — she has volunteered at her children’s schools, a clothing donation center, at her church, and at a health center run by her church.
When she first started at the TestMV site, Krokenberger said there were gaps between cars driving up to get tested. It wasn’t until around October that things got busy. Now each day it’s mostly one car after another — which Krokenberger said is a great sight to see, so many people getting tested.
“Everyone is just so thankful that we’re there … so many people thank us for volunteering and are so appreciative that we’re there. It’s just a really good feeling that I can be there to help,” Krokenberger said. “People let me know they appreciate it. That makes me want to do it even more.”
The longer Krokenberger has helped out at TestMV the more she’s realized how much of an asset the testing site — which tests asymptomatic individuals — is to the Island.
“Living in Florida, I know it’s not half as easy to get testing and people oftentimes have to pay for it if they’re not insured,” she said. “We’re really blessed to have this here.”
Krokenberger is also grateful she is able to help out. “It’s a great feeling to be able to give back and hopefully make a difference here on the Island because the whole goal is for people to keep getting tested, keep the numbers down, and stay on top of it,” she said.
For now, Krokenberger is planning to stay on-Island and volunteer until the end of January, but the comfort of Island life might keep her into the winter. “Martha’s Vineyard is doing a really good job at enforcing wearing masks and I think the people who live here are very compliant and I think people are very courteous and thoughtful of other people,” she said.
With more COVID-19 vaccine doses on the way for more members of the public, Krokenberger said she would be happy to help administer doses. “If I come back in May maybe it will just become available to the public at that point and then I would definitely volunteer again to do that,” she said.
She encouraged anyone interested in volunteering for TestMV to reach out and see if there’s a spot they can fill, especially with people leaving as winter is well underway.
It’s been a pleasure for Krokenberger to volunteer and the response from the community and her fellow volunteers has made the work even more enjoyable. Two weeks ago, on a particularly cold day and before heaters had been set up, a woman getting tested noticed the volunteers and staff were jumping up and down to stay warm. The woman came back to the testing site with a bag of hand and feet warmers.
“People have been dropping off coffee and cookies and candy,” she said. “Today, someone came in with all these little coffee cups filled with little chocolates and lottery tickets in every single one of them .. .the community has really backed us up and that makes it so much easier.”