SEAHEC community health workers trained to provide support to elders and caregivers on COVID-19. First row. from left: Christian Gomez and Paulette Nevarez. Second row: Ycied Talavera and Nora Guzman. Third row: Zuleyka Tabarez and Erin Sol. Fourth row: Brenda Sanchez and Lupita Gonzalez.

A public health nonprofit operating in Santa Cruz County was awarded a $1 million federal grant to conduct COVID-related outreach and address vaccine hesitancy by developing a team of community health workers in rural southeastern and central Arizona.

The Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) said the “Proyecto Juntos” effort will identify unvaccinated individuals, share information about how and where to get vaccinated, provide education to decrease vaccine hesitancy, and help plan, promote and staff vaccination events.

SEAHEC and its partners have hired and trained a total of 10 community health workers to reach out to vulnerable groups in Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz counties, the organization said in a news release.

“To be a good community health worker, one has to have passion to provide community education and derive satisfaction from seeing other people grow and overcome their fears,” Lupita Gonzalez, a SEAHEC community health worker, said in the news release.

“Being a community health worker means being the bridge between the community and the services they need,” added Erin Sol, another member of the SEAHEC team.

In addition, SEAHEC said that as part of a recent subcontract with the Southeastern Arizona Governments Organization Area Agency on Aging, it is working to make sure local senior citizens have accurate COVID education and referrals to services.

“This initiative is working in Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham and Greenlee counties, where SEAHEC collaborates with other health and social service agencies including county health departments and community health centers,” the organization said, adding that it is working closely with the Mariposa Community Health Center in Santa Cruz County.

Brenda Sanchez, SEAHEC’s program manager as well as a public health specialist and Spanish interpreter and translator, oversees the organization’s COVID education efforts and its community health workers. Project Coordinator Lupita Gonzalez is a bilingual/bicultural community health worker who has coordinated many efforts with elders in Santa Cruz County, SEAHEC said.

For more information, contact Gonzalez at

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