By Dedra Cordle
Charles Morehead sat in the large recreation room at the Kingston Center, feeling a sense of unease growing within.
As he waited, a steady stream of men and women flowed into the area, all of them pulling up their sleeves as they prepared to offer their blood for a worthy cause. While he has a long history of donating his blood – he joked that it was a “family tradition” – he was not sure he would be able to do it this time though he wanted to.
“There was some issue with my blood flow,” said the resident of Grove City. “I wasn’t sure what they meant by it, but I knew I had to do something about it.”
As he scoped out the snacks available to those who have already donated at the Red Cross Blood Drive, he spotted his potential lifeline – raisins.
“They always do the trick,” he said with a laugh.
After gobbling up a few boxes of the dried fruit, he sat and waited and hoped that they could provide the boost he needed to give his blood. He said that it was a welcome relief when the medical staff gave him the go-ahead.
“I’m smiling behind my mask,” he said as phlebotomist Steve Petrovich encouraged him to squeeze a ball for continued flow. “There is nothing else I would rather be doing today.”
Like the vast majority of those who decided to donate on Oct. 30, Morehead is what is known as a regular donor, or someone who donates frequently rather than sporadically.
Cat Elkins, an account manager for the local Red Cross affiliate, said that is what makes Grove City so special to the organization.
“There is a lot of loyalty in this community,” she said. “They are very passionate about giving blood and sometimes it is hard to find new donors because there are so many who come back to give.”
The local affiliate and the city of Grove City have been partners in blood drives since the early 1990s, said Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage.
According to Stage, it began when Tiney McComb, a well-known banker in the community who was also the chairman for the county Red Cross board, proposed a partnership to host blood drives in one of the government buildings.
“We wanted it to be convenient to the community,” he said.
Initially, the city was unsure how long the partnership would last because much of it depended on community involvement, but Stage said it has been going strong ever since. He called it a true testament to the giving spirit of the community.
“The people here want to give back,” Stage said.
And not even a pandemic could stop them.
In the spring, when the novel coronavirus made its way to the state, many established blood drive locations had to be closed as health professionals determined how donations could be safely administered during this uncertain time. The Kingston Center was not one of those locations that had to close its doors for a lengthy duration. In fact, they recently decided to expand their scheduled dates.
“We were incredibly fortunate that the city allowed us to expand our operations,” said Elkins, referring to the drives established on most Fridays, along with the first Wednesday of the month.
She went on to say that the organization was also “incredibly fortunate” that the giving spirit of the community has flourished at this time and not diminished.
“The need for blood at our hospitals never stops,” said Elkins.
In addition to whole blood donations, the Kingston Center also includes a Power Red donation option where an individual can safely give two units of red blood cells during one donation. At the drive on Oct. 30, Chuck Milan made his first Power Red donation. He said he experienced no issues with the procedure but joked that it is not something he “would want to do every day.”
Like Morehead, and the rest of those at this drive, Milan has given blood before but said he was inspired to donate his red blood cells after watching his daughter go through cancer treatments.
“I never realized how much more went into helping save their lives,” he said, “but knowing what I do now, I wanted to give back in any way that I could.”
Most people in good health who are over the age of 18 can participate in whole blood donations but there are some requirements for Power Red donations. For more information, visit www.redcross.org.
The blood drives at the Kingston Center will be hosted this month on Nov. 13 and 20 from noon to 6 p.m. Each unit of blood donated will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies; if the results indicate there are antibodies present, that person will be contacted and asked to donate plasma for COVID-19 patients currently in the hospital.
There are also several other blood drives taking place at area churches. To find a date and location, visit the scheduling/donation page at www.redcross.org and search by zip code. To find additional times at the Kingston Center, visit the city’s Facebook page for current information.