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Apple Pharmacy has a mission to help everyone in need of assistance, especially when it comes to matters of medicine.
Jose “Joe” Vargas, the owner of Apple Pharmacy, spends most of his time working for the betterment of the community. Someone who has been in health care for 25 years, Vargas is passionate about caring for those most in need.
“Our passion is driven by caring for our patients the way we care for our own families,” Vargas said. “We bring pharmacy to the front doorstep of the patient.”
Apple Pharmacy has eight locations: two in McAllen and one in Brownsville, Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, Pharr and Edinburg. In Mission they can be found at 909 Business Park Drive, and Palmview at 810 E. Veterans Blvd.
According to Vargas, who is an owner of all eight, they have been in the city about five years now.
“Especially in these times that we’re living, we highly encourage our patients to stay home and for us to be able to bring our medications to their door,” Vargas said. “We ensure our pharmacists are always available to the needs of our patients, whether it be education on the medications they’re taking or also what measures to take to keep themselves healthy and safe during this pandemic.”
Vargas said pharmacists are always available over the phone for any questions, doubts and concerns.
Adjusting to new protocol during the pandemic was an immediate need for Apple Pharmacy, and Vargas stressed their strategies for ensuring the safest delivery and pickup methods for customers.
“We’ve had to educate our staff in the proper way of preparing medications,” Vargas said, noting technicians preparing prescriptions at Apple Pharmacy are fully masked and gloved throughout the process. “We’re very mindful of the fact that patients who will be receiving those kinds of medications rely on how they were prepared.”
Apple Pharmacy also utilizes extreme precaution, and some locations even have robots that pull medications, bottles them, seals and labels it – ensuring no human contact during the preparation period.
“The only human contact is when they go and take the bottle from the robot,” Vargas said. “That in itself isn’t available at every single pharmacy, so now we’ve had all employees use gloves, a gown and a mask as well.”
Supporting the local economy by shopping at locally-owned establishments is important for everyone, Vargas said.
“We are a small company that depends on local citizens, we contribute a lot to the community with a lot of education and involvement,” Vargas said. “If we can put certain safe practices into place, our businesses can remain open and we can continue to service people.”
Vargas spoke about how people have been struggling with employment during the pandemic, so they have worked at Apple Pharmacy to keep their employees stable, with a steady paycheck.
“Keeping the business local, keeping dollars local, is very essential,” Vargas added. “It keeps local people employed, it keeps local citizens working, and that has been one of my biggest concerns from the start of this pandemic.”
Vargas is also a Catholic Deacon for the Diocese of Brownsville. Currently his post is the San Juan Diego Parish in McAllen, and Vargas said he has found happiness in serving not only medical needs, but spiritual ones as well.
“I believe in these values very fervently,” Vargas said of peoples’ spiritual growth. “I’m very blessed to be able to have my ministry as a deacon for the Catholic Church, to understand the challenges both on the spiritual side and also on the health side.”
Vargas also serves as a chaplain at Evins Regional Juvenile Center, where he mentors and meets weekly with children attempting to rehabilitate and return to the community. He said his fervor as a deacon has enabled him to become more compassionate and understanding.
“I speak to them as a person who understands the challenges that families today are facing because I see it every day,” Vargas said. “It modifies my model of business completely, because we see patients very differently.”
The word deacon is defined as a “servant for all,” according to Vargas, which also informs his business.
“We need to serve all, no matter who they are,” Vargas said. “No matter what religion, what creed, what background or walk of life they come from, we are called to love and care for your fellow brother and neighbor regardless of everything. I take that very seriously – it has changed and molded my life.”
Vargas said his faith allows him to see people as more than patients – they are grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
“Nobody leaves my pharmacy without being taken care of,” Vargas said. “And I don’t care if it’s at a loss to the pharmacy, because at the end of the day I know that because of what I stand for, I will be compensated somehow.”
He considers it the greatest honor to be able to make a good living by serving and caring for others.
“It gives me the opportunity to help those most in need while fulfilling my Christian duty by making sure I am caring for those who need it most,” Vargas said. “When you start thinking about it as an opportunity to help someone instead of as an opportunity to make a dollar, it really changes the perspective of your business and the moral of your employees.”
Apple Pharmacy is committed to serving everyone – regardless of their financial background. Those who find it difficult or are unable to pick up their prescriptions in person, can have their medication brought to them from Apple Pharmacy, which offers contactless delivery.
“The state itself has allowed us to have certain flexibilities,” Vargas said, adding their drivers ensure the medications are picked up by the patient before leaving. “We’re here to care for people – even if that means we don’t make any money, or we take a loss. At the end of the day, God blesses us, and we are very blessed to have this opportunity.”