Joe's Covee Car/Facebook Joe's Covee Car
Joe Cicchetti may be retired, but he's taking on the job of chauffer to help New Jersey's most vulnerable residents get to and from their COVID vaccine appointments, free of charge.
Thanks to Cicchetti's service — which he's dubbed "Joe's Covee Car" — local residents in two different counties can now get to their appointments hassle-free with Cicchetti and his partner Shirley Limburg behind the wheel.
"The goal of this project is to just get more people with shots in the arm," Cicchetti said in a YouTube video explaining the service. "If we can get one person that doesn't get COVID because of what we've done here, we will have succeeded."
Cicchetti, 58, has had a lifelong passion for restoring old cars, so it didn't take long for his black Fiat to be transformed for the occasion, NJ.com reported.
"I've always had vintage cars my entire life. I have restored probably 20 to 30 vintage cars," he told the outlet. "When the coronavirus first happened, I thought of making a corona car just to make it … and the idea kind of sat for awhile."
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Soon, though, the idea became a reality, and Cicchetti's vehicle was decorated with dozens of red spikes meant to resemble the coronavirus protein.
He and Limburg, 59, are both retired and fully vaccinated, so for the past month, they've been driving the car around Hunterdon and Warren Counties, transporting those who need rides to their vaccine appointments, according to NJ.com.
Limburg told the outlet that the couple, who live in Bloomsbury Borough, hope to reach those unable to get around, whether it's because they don't have a car or can't drive, or because they cannot afford an Uber and are not close to public transportation.
"For us to drive somebody is a little thing, but for somebody who has no car and is maybe unemployed right now … for them it's a big thing," she told NJ.com. "We know there's some people where they're just not going to be able to get to [the appointment]. And maybe they can't afford to Uber."
"Life's been good to us, so we figured we could do something good for our community," she added.
For Limburg, the benefit of vaccines is personal; she told NJ.com that she believes an undiagnosed case of mumps led to hearing loss in her left ear as a child, which eventually squashed her dream of becoming a pilot.
"I know so many people from my generation who had childhood illnesses that are now preventable, and yet we have people who are not wanting to take vaccines even though these things are preventable," she said. "And it makes me crazy."
The possibility of saving a life, meanwhile, is personal for Cicchetti, who lost his brother years ago to a disease related to the 9/11 terror attacks, according to the Washington Post.
"If I can even prevent one person from not going through what my family went through with losing my brother, I'd call it a success," he told the outlet.
According to the "Joe's Covee Car" Facebook page, anyone who needs a ride can email email@example.com or call 908-328-6730 to request one, so long as it's not more than an hour away from their requested pick-up point.
All passengers are required to wear a mask in the car, sanitize their hands and let their driver take a temperature check.
The service remains free, though the couple has set up an online fundraiser to help pay for gas, hand sanitizer and masks.
"We are not rich people by far. We are doing something that makes a difference," Cicchetti told the Post. "Yeah, money is important, but people's lives are really important. If we can do something like this on a very limited budget, anyone can do it."