By Johnny Jackson
The American Red Cross is pushing to increase the amount of blood donations collected from now through the end of the holiday season.
"This time of year is a pretty challenging time for blood donations, and we continue to see shortages in blood donations through the new year," said April Phillips, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region.
Phillips said donations tend to dry up during the holidays, because individuals and families get busy, and they tend to donate less at a time when the need is greater. She noted that the Red Cross also temporarily loses a significant segment of its donor population during the holidays, because high schools and colleges are often closed.
"We do get more than 20 percent of all our donations from colleges and high schools," she said. "We hold a number of blood drives at colleges and high schools throughout Henry and Clayton counties."
Phillips said the Red Cross held a mobile blood donation drive Tuesday at Locust Grove High School, in Locust Grove. The drive, hosted by the school's Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter, managed to collect 81 pints of blood.
"This is HOSA week in the state of Georgia, Nov. 8-12," said Sandra Martin, Locust Grove's HOSA advisor. "HOSA strives to emphasize health care during this week through involvement with the students, faculty, and community.
"One way that [Locust Grove's] HOSA organization participated in this emphasis was having a blood drive sponsored by the American Red Cross," Martin continued. "We collected enough blood to save up to 243 lives."
Lindsey Tomlinson, a junior at Locust Grove, gave blood for the first time, during Tuesday's blood drive. "It made me feel proud of myself," said Tomlinson, 17. "I've always wanted to give blood. I think it's a good cause. Someone else could need it. I felt like I was doing something right, because it could save a life."
High schools continue to be one of the Red Cross' largest blood donor sites, according to Phillips. Of the nearly 280,000 units of red blood cells collected by the American Red Cross in its Southern Blood Services Region last school year, 36,574 units were collected at high school blood drives, she said. There were 21,446 units collected at college blood drives.
"The first time I ever gave blood was when I was 17, and in high school," added Phillips.
However, despite the support of high schools, colleges, and other sponsors, the region does not collect enough blood to meet the needs of patients at the more than 120 local hospitals served in the region, she explained.
"As a result, the Red Cross must bring in blood from other states to meet the needs of patients right here in Georgia," Phillips said. "Thankfully, the Red Cross' national inventory system allows this to be done, but it is our goal to be a self-sustaining region."
The Red Cross plans to begin a regional campaign, called "The Perfect Gift," to encourage individuals to participate in donating blood, or platelets, the week of Nov. 22-28. She said those who participate will receive a commemorative "The Perfect Gift" holiday ornament.
To learn more about the campaign, visit the Red Cross web site at www.redcrossblood.org, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733 2767).
Phillips said the Red Cross will sponsor other blood drives throughout the Southern Crescent this month:
* Monday, Nov. 15, from 2 p.m., to 7 p.m., at the McDonough Presbyterian Church, 427 McGarity Road, in McDonough,
* Nov. 22, from 10 a.m., until 3 p.m., at Southern Regional Medical Center, 11 West Upper Riverdale Road, in Riverdale,
* Nov. 26, from 10 a.m., until 3 p.m., at Best Buy Southlake Store 505, 1980 Mt. Zion Road, in Morrow,
* Nov. 30, from 10 a.m., until 3 p.m., at United Education Institute, 1564 Southlake Parkway, in Morrow.