Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”
It’s no secret that it is God who gives wisdom and knowledge to people so that it can be used to benefit the vast population. A young tech-savvy Chicago high schooler who has a knack for securing vaccine appointments is using it to help hundreds of elderly people do that.
Benjamin Kagan, a freshman at Francis W. Parker School spends a lot of his time “hunting for appointments” for upward of 550 people in the Illinois area along with volunteers known as the Chicago Vaccine Angels.
Now 74% of the Illinois residents asking for help are over the age of 65. Kagan said, “A lot of these people [seniors] are struggling a lot with the technological aspect of this whole thing, and they really need help,” he said. That prompted him to devise a centralized system to help track and book appointments for them.
It all started when during winter break he helped his grandparents navigate Florida’s system. “The Florida system was a big mess,” he said. “It was this crazy thing and there were thousands and thousands of people vying for slots.” With four computer monitors open, Kagan took up the challenge, he said he was competing with about 66,000 other people.
After he was able to successfully help his grandparents get their first dose, he helped his parents who own an essential business in Illinois. He found the Facebook group, Chicago Vaccine Hunters, and began offering tips on how and where to look for vaccine appointments in the area.
There were others on social media too who were constantly offering guidance on the page. Soon after posting his own tips, Kagan’s Facebook inbox quickly became flooded with messages. “That eventually morphed into people sending me private messages on Facebook saying, ‘you know, Benjamin, can you help me? … If I give you my info, can you use it for me?'” he said.
It was a lot for him to handle on his own and so he formed the Chicago Vaccine Angels. In order to create one centralized system, Kagan created a Google form that will feed a person’s name and other personal information into a spreadsheet. “Now, we’re all hunting for appointments,” he said.
In just one week Kagan and his band of volunteers connected 294 people with appointments and the requests have kept piling in. To date, the spreadsheet got more than 554 responses. It is not easy to track the appointments and says while he was on winter break, he used to spend many hours a day just to manage all the requests.
Kagan has a gift which he is using to benefit the elderly to secure a vaccine appointment, “My plan is to continue doing this until someone can call up a Walgreens and say, ‘OK, I’m coming over in five minutes … have it ready for me,'” he said.