Pennsylvania TSA officer praised for making COVID-19 vaccine appointments for local seniors

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Unlike online shopping or social-media skimming, this TSA officer’s late-night hobby is doing a world of good.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer in Pennsylvania has been praised by her employer for dedicating her free time to making coronavirus vaccine appointments for at-risk seniors in her local area. The generous volunteer even drives some of the seniors to their appointments on her days off, and takes them out for ice cream.

Donna LaMonaca’s mission began when she helped some elderly relatives secure appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine because they didn’t have computers. From there, family members asked if she could help schedule appointments for their other older friends.

Donna LaMonaca’s mission began when she helped some elderly relatives secure appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine because they didn’t have computers.
(Donna LaMonaca)

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In the last three weeks, LaMonaca has set over 50 vaccine appointments for seniors in the state’s phase 1A category, the TSA said in a news release issued Monday. Her helping hands make all the difference, as many of the strangers who contact her don’t have computers, email, or the tech skills to secure a coveted appointment online.

LaMonaca, a Supervisory TSA Officer at Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is an 18-year veteran of the federal agency and has found success in scoring appointments by waking up three times during the night. The volunteer sets alarms for 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. and queues up two computers, three cell phones and three tablets to access appointment sites and fill in the forms for the seniors.

Beyond quick fingers, this system also takes patience.

“I might refresh 100 times in two minutes,” she said, as the appointments go quickly.

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Leading by example, LaMonaca has also gotten her 13-year-old son Geno involved in the crusade. On her days off, he’ll tag along and pitch in when she drives some seniors to get vaccinated, too.

“He uses a checklist of what they need to bring such as photo ID, insurance card, and he helps them fill out paperwork before we get there to speed up the process,” the proud mom said. “He’s a good egg and he’s putting a lot into this too. It’s sweet to see him walk the older ladies in for their appointments and help them with their coats, and sit and talk with them while we wait.” 

Truly going the extra mile, LaMonaca said she’s “driven the two hours to Pittsburgh probably five times” to help get people vaccinated in recent weeks. Ending the outing on a sweet note, she’ll often stop to take the seniors out for ice cream on the way home.

“It’s so awesome to see the anxiety about going out finally start to subside a little bit,” she said.

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Despite her recognition from the TSA, LaMonaca said that helping secure appointments for local seniors is simply the right thing to do.

“I always tell my kiddos we are all not in the same boat, we are in the same river,” she explained. “But everyone has a different boat and even though you may think you have a nice boat, you never know when you may need something as simple as a raft. So help everyone when you can no matter what.”

Truly taking this advice to heart, LaMonaca also bought and delivered meals to hungry kids in need earlier in the pandemic, the TSA said. The children faced food insecurity when their schools were closed due to COVID-19.
(Donna LaMonaca)

LaMonaca also puts her words into practice, as she has also bought and delivered meals to hungry kids in need earlier in the pandemic. These children faced food insecurity when their schools were closed due to COVID-19, the TSA said. 

“Donna has a big heart and a genuine compassion for others,” Karen Keys Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the region, said of the superstar employee. “Her dedication to her community is admirable. She serves as a role model for her fellow TSA officers because she is someone who leads by example.

“I’m sure she has instilled in her children these same values of the importance of stepping up and giving of your time and energy to help others in need.”

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