HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) – Delaney Stewart is one of New Jersey’s heroes in the fight against COVID-19.
A sophomore psychology major at Centenary University, the Hackettstown resident has booked more than 75 vaccine appointments for elderly strangers, as well as people with preexisting conditions, who couldn’t navigate the state’s decentralized online system.
After finding appointments for her parents back in February, Stewart posted an offer to help others on the New Jersey Vaccine Info Facebook page, the source her grandparents tapped to find a volunteer to schedule their appointments. Stewart’s first clients: An elderly couple in their 80s with little computer experience. That night, she stayed up until midnight to score two appointments at a local Rite Aid. “When I told my dad that I made the appointments, he started to tear up,” Stewart recalled. “He knows I’m someone who likes to help people.”
That experience began a string of late nights booking appointments for strangers who reached out via the Facebook page: Senior citizens. A cancer survivor. A man with a liver illness. The parents of friends. And even members of the Centenary University community. Their gratitude was evident. One person sobbed in relief. Another called Stewart “an angel.” In addition, Stewart educated others on how to navigate the online scheduling system, likely helping many more people.
Stewart worked at finding appointments most evenings until 2 a.m., grabbing a few hours’ sleep before her first class at 10 a.m. “It was frustrating to me that these people—including people in their 80s and 90s—couldn’t get appointments,” said Stewart, who is still recovering from her own mild case of COVID-19 in February. “They didn’t grow up with computers and technology.”
Stewart is excited that she will receive her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, May 6, and is looking forward to mid-June, when she can safely gather again with family and friends.
Reflecting on the help she has provided to others, Stewart said, “At first, I didn’t realize the impact I was making on strangers’ lives. Their reactions made me happy, so I kept going. I’m just so grateful I could help.”
Originally an education major when she enrolled at Centenary, this year Stewart changed her major to psychology, with a minor in criminal justice. “The pandemic has changed my career goals,” explained Stewart, who received a presidential challenge coin from Centenary University President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., for her vaccine volunteer work. Stewart plans to work in forensic psychology after earning a master’s in the field, an aspiration inspired by her late aunt, who was a prosecutor. Stewart said, “After helping people with their vaccine appointments, I know that I want to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”