Categories: Giveaways

Petersburg’s health event featured free turkey giveaways and flu shots

PETERSBURG – Dorothy Coleman clutched her bag with the United Healthcare logo as she looked around at the events around her at the Petersburg Sports Complex.

“This is a great thing,” said the Petersburg resident, her voice smiling behind her face mask. “That’s really cool, and you can learn a lot more hands-on like this.”

“This” was the Thanksgiving Action and Resource Event hosted by the nonprofit organization Rising Toward Success, and co-sponsored by the Petersburg Sheriff’s Department and several health-related businesses and groups. In addition to getting a full turkey dinner and side dishes at no charge, visitors received free flu shots and gathered information on all aspects of health, from diet and exercise to emotional well-being and mental

Cars started lining up at the sports complex well before the event was scheduled to open at 11am. At one point, the line stretched from the parking lot entrance to Ballpark Drive and even spilled onto Birdsong Road. Volunteers took on the role of ‘traffic cops’ pointing out vehicles entering the car park and ensuring those further down would have a chance to see everything.

Although the event was outdoors, many attendees still wore face masks not only to protect against COVID-19, but also the latest wave of flu and respiratory syncytial virus. According to the Virginia Department of Health, nearly 6,000 cases of the flu have been reported this season, leading some to label the illness season as a “demic” when you throw in COVID.

However, Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary John Littel is not one of them. He said while the state was seeing “pretty significant decreases” in COVID cases, health care providers haven’t had time to slow down because of the increase in flu cases.

“It’s about survival of the fittest viruses, and for a long time, COVID was the strongest virus, so any kind of push we had with the flu was superseded by COVID,” said Littel, who attended the event in Petersburg, to journalists. “We’ve been watching the flu this year because COVID is more stable in a lot of places, so we’re seeing the flu push through. It’s a little bit stronger than usual and it’s certainly affecting a lot of households.” .

Littel said the line of cars at the event shows how crucial the need is to help underserved areas like Petersburg improve access to health care and healthy food.

“Being able to provide turkeys to everyone who comes forward is very important,” he said.

The party was scheduled to start at 11 a.m., but was halted because the Sentara Mobile Care RV carrying the free flu shots got stuck in traffic on the Hampton Roads-Tunnel Bridge. The delay didn’t last long, and the RV crew quickly parked and set up the shooting clinic. One of those who got the flu shot was Littel.

No matter how long they had to wait, residents like Coleman were grateful to even have the event, so he didn’t mind waiting in the car line. He said he wants to see more things like this in the future, “and I like to tell people things like this so they can go out and see them.”

Thursday was the first of two health-related events at the Sports Complex in a span of days.

On Sunday afternoon, organizers are planning a “Community Harvest Health Festival” that includes free health screenings and vaccinations, rides, a petting zoo and a play and fun area. The event will be from 2 to 5 p.m

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Bill Atkinson (he/his) is an award-winning journalist covering breaking news, government and politics. Contact him at or on Twitter at @BAkinson_PI.


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