January Monthly Focus: National Blood Donor Month

What is National Blood Donor Month? 

January’s monthly theme is National Blood Donor MonthYou may have volunteered at blood drives or blood donation centers beforeif so, you’ve been participating in one of the Red Cross’s fundamental lines of service – Blood Services. The American Red Cross provides about 40% of the nation’s blood and blood componentsand we’re currently experiencing a nationwide blood shortage. We need the support of all our volunteers, especially youth and young adults, to help Blood Services recruit donors with their own work! Find out how to get involved below. 


Stories from the Field 

Want some inspiration from other Red Cross Club leaders? Here are the accounts of two youth volunteers who have been supporting Blood Services in the field: 

Cameron Carter, Georgia Region 

Hi! My name is Cameron Carter, and I’m going to go through my experience with hosting blood drives during COVID-19. To host a drive, you will work with your Drive Account Manager. My account manager is Angela Truelove; she is amazing at her job and provides all the training and resources I need to run a great drive. She and I work together to provide our drive location and get donors. Getting a location can be harder during COVID-19, but thankfully we were able to get our local recreation department to allow us to use a room for our drives.  

Getting donors is another challenging task. I created posters using the resources provided by Angela, then printed the posters and hung them up around my town and school. I also emailed my local newspaper and asked them to run an advertisement. Working at the drive can be super scary especially with the risk of COVID-19, but the American Red Cross has implemented many new guidelines that make me and my Club members feel safe, including wearing masks and keeping our donors six-feet apart. I also have a few Club members walk around and sanitize touched surfaces to keep everything clean. The biggest thing I have learned from hosting drives during this pandemic is to always be ready for change and always adapt to it. I encourage all youth presidents and Club members to join Biomedical Services and help supply blood to the many people who need it everyday. We are the future of the Red Cross and the future of Biomedical Services. Make change in your community! 

Kate ApplemanMissouri-Arkansas Region 

Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) Red Cross Club has taken a special interest in the Biomedical Services of the American Red Cross. The severity of blood shortages across the nation have become a concern to many, and our organization decided to focus on this aspect of the American Red Cross during the pandemic. To combat the blood shortage, we have taken on the responsibility as Blood Program Leaders and volunteers in our community. As this year comes to an end, the SEMO Red Cross Club can proudly say that we have been able to volunteer, lead, and even donate at thirteen blood drives since August 2020. Therefore, we are here to tell you more about how you can hold a blood drive in your organization, what to expect when having one, and what experiences you will gain along the way.    

My name is Kate Appleman, and I am the President of the SEMO Red Cross Club. Since becoming President, I have learned the importance of networking and communication. With that being said, I recommend you try and get into contact with your local American Red Cross region. By making this connection, it will allow you to better explore your options and how your organization can impact your community and more. Making these connections has been a very important step for our organization to grow. After we did this, I began to have meetings with different members in all divisions of the American Red Cross. This allowed us to get a foot into the door for the services they offer. The SEMO Red Cross Club’s main contacts for planning and setting up blood drives are Maria Stevenson (Executive Director of the Southeast Missouri Chapter), Michelle Johnson (Blood Services Donor Recruitment), Jennifer Freeze (Southern Missouri Arkansas District Manager), and Pamela Kaplan (Recruitment Specialist). Michelle and Jennifer have been vital to giving our organization the opportunities we have had this past semester to host, lead, and volunteer at blood drives. After having calls and email conversations with these wonderful women, we coordinate with each other to find out where my organization can help and when. The facilities that a majority of our drives are held at are our university, the local chapters of the American Legion Hall, civic centers, and VFW Halls. If you are wanting to organize a drive, I recommend keeping it near your campus to enable easier access for students to volunteer. After we have the logistics of the drive set up, we start to promote our drive to get donors. We have found that some of the most effective ways to get donors is through social media. The SEMO Red Cross Club creates graphics and spreads the word about the drives on our members’ personal accounts to reach as many people as we can. We also post flyers around our campus to help out as well. Another way that helps to get donors is by utilizing the Blood Program Leaders account to email potential donors about an upcoming drive. As we finish the conversation about how to get a blood drive going, we are going to move into what you may experience at a drive. 

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of many during this time. It is important to follow guidelines and precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. The American Red Cross has done a great job at keeping each person at a drive safe. As you enter a drive, you may see a few changes, but the goal is the same. When you enter the facility where the drive is located, you will have your temperature taken to ensure you have no fever. After you are cleared, you are given hand sanitizer and checked in as normal. Each donor, worker, and volunteer must have a mask on when entering the facility as well. After checkin, a donor takes a seat in a chair that is at least six feet apart from another chair. This is to ensure distance between donors. Every surface in the room is sanitized before and after a person has taken a seat or touched a table. These precautions have been set to make you and your volunteers feel safe, and the SEMO Red Cross Club can ensure you that we have felt safe at each drive we have volunteered at. In the end, the experiences that we have gained from being able to host and help out at these drives are unforgettable. 

As I have grown up, I have seen what the American Red Cross has done for those across the world. From seeing how these volunteers were able to impact others, I hoped that one day I could do the same. I know that the pandemic has been hard for many of us, but every time that I have volunteered or led a drive has given me a sense of accomplishment. Each unit of blood that is collected can save up to three lives and that amazes me. At times it may feel that our efforts do not mean much at all, but every unit you collect is used to help many. That is an accomplishment in itself. Whether you are taking someone’s temperature, checking in a donor, helping in the canteen, or making sanitizing surfaces, you are making a difference. My experiences with volunteering and leading blood drives have allowed me to grow as a leader, a member of my community, and into the person I want to be. Working with the American Red Cross will allow you to grow, lead, inspire, and potentially save lives. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make a difference. You have the power to help hundreds of people, and all you have to do is make that first step. Contact your local region and set a date. Being involved in the iomedical services will be rewarding, and I can promise you that. Good luck future volunteers and Blood Program Leaders. We can’t wait to see your impact!

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