Brazil & Portugal  


Abrigo Centre Aims to Get Shots in Arms

Abrigo committed to joining the cluster’s Vaccine Engagement Team (VET)

by Gerry Luciano, Manager, Fundraising and Communications | October 21, 2021

A year ago, the thought of Abrigo being in the vaccination game would be unthinkable. “Is this your first of second dose?” “Your dominate arm is… right or left?” “Would you like Pfizer of Moderna?” Excuse me, what?

As we transitioned into 2021, Abrigo was an active member of the York Weston Pelham cluster of social service agencies formulated to share ideas and best practices to help guide our clients through the difficult depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few months later as an offshoot of that work, Abrigo committed to joining the cluster’s Vaccine Engagement Team (VET), a group of agencies determined to help get people in Toronto vaccinated. It was a leap of faith in many ways for our organization. Providing or coordinating healthcare services has never been part of our mandate but exceptional circumstances demands an exceptional response.

Lead Ambassador  & Resident Ambassadors

With funding from the City of Toronto, our first order in early May was to hire a Lead Ambassador, who would spearhead our agency’s vaccination efforts. The organization quickly turned to media personality and former Abrigo Board member Matthew Correia. Matthew graciously accepted the offer and we were literally off to the races – the race to get the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of primarily the Portuguese-speaking community of Toronto.

Mathew Correia (left), Ed Graça (Executive Director of Abrigo Centre) and José Eustáquio (Vice-president of Milenio Stadium).

With Matthew’s leadership and assistance (left), the agency quickly hired two Resident Ambassadors, Tania Barbosa and Jessica Pacheco, to assist with the cause. From early on in this process there was a coordinated effort between Abrigo counsellors and our Vaccine Engagement Team to ensure that all interested Abrigo clients and volunteers got their shot as soon as possible.

Beyond making media appearances to promote our efforts and other engagement activities to educate the public about this important work, in those early days the VET team was also focused on referring clients, friends, family members and associates to the various city-run and agency clinics that administered shots. One of our most trusted partners has been our colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Through those activities however, it became clear that there was an appetite for Portuguese language pop-up clinics.

The Abrigo team took up the challenge and held our first clinic at our Dufferin and St. Clair location on July 9, 2021. After consulting with Toronto Public Health, the decision was made to book eight clients per fifteen-minute block. The formula worked to perfection as our clients registered and got their shot in mere minutes after their arrival.

4 vaccination events

What also proved to be a delight through the four vaccination events we have held was working with our partners, the men and women of Toronto Public Health, Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Paramedics. Their enthusiasm to get people vaccinated, their professionalism, overwhelmingly positive attitudes and good-nature made each clinic a pleasure to organize and execute. We are proud to say that a total 463 individuals have received their first or second shot through one of Abrigo’s clinics so far.

The Support of the Portuguese-language Media

 The degree of this success could not have been reached without the support of the many Portuguese-language media outlets who have joined us on this journey. The list is long, and we thank each of them for their commitment to engage and educate the community. At each event we’ve heard from clients who said they came from far and wide, including one couple from London, ON, because they heard a promotion for a clinic. We would be remiss not to thank MDC Media Inc., FPTV, CIRV Radio and Discover Magazine among the many for their generous and continued support.

Even after 31 years of service to the Portuguese-language community in Toronto and beyond, Abrigo continues to grow, evolve and meet the difficult issues head-on that effect our community. We have never backed away from a challenge and COVID-19, although a formidable foe, is no match for the energy and determination we as an organization exude.

Do you need one or both COVID-19 vaccines?

If you still need one or both of your COVID-19 vaccines, please call us (416-534-3434) and one of our Vaccine Engagement Teams members will call you back and assist you on your mission to stay safe and healthy. Be smart, be safe and get your vaccine!



Gerry Luciano

Gerry has been the Abrigo Centre’s Manager of Fundraising and Communications for the last six years. He has an extensive background in both disciplines in the healthcare and social service sectors.

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