Jewish Federation Blood Drive Answers Crucial Need for American Red Cross

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American Red Cross volunteer Paula Cohen | Photo by Rachel Winicov

As the national blood emergency entered its fifth week, employees at the Jewish Community Services Building joined the effort to increase the supply of blood and platelets to local hospitals.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the American Red Cross hosted the much-needed blood drive there on Aug. 10.

“We are sending blood and platelets to hospitals faster than donations are coming in,” Alana Mauger, external communications manager for the American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region, said of the crisis, which the American Red Cross first announced July 5.

She noted the Penn-Jersey region alone requires about 1,000 pints of blood a day, which translates to an equivalent number of donations. Nationally, “in May and June, the Red Cross was down 61,000 donations” from the targeted goal.

“Summer is always a really challenging time to collect blood,” Mauger added. “High schools and colleges are out of session, and some donors take vacations.”

Donna Freyman, director of human resources for the Jewish Federation, organized the recent drive.

About 15 donors participated in the event, which was open to staff members and volunteers of building organizations.

“The drive has been held off-and-on for about 15 years,” Freyman said. “It’s been in different forms, sometimes once a year, and now it’s twice a year.” Another building-wide blood drive usually takes place in February.

“I’m happy to do it because I’ve been supporting the American Red Cross’ blood drives since I was 17,” she said.

However, she conceded, “there’s a lot of limitations in getting donors,” including weight and medication restrictions.

The summer timing also precludes some donations, Freyman noted. “It’s the height of the vacation season,” and many potential volunteers are away. Despite the increased time off, “the Red Cross asks [for August] because in August, there’s almost always a blood emergency.”

“Since the Red Cross has this severe shortage [in summer blood donations], they were happy with anything we were able to donate,” she said, noting the drive was a “fair success.”

Laureen Mendelero, an accountant with Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, donated blood at the event.

She has “lost count” of the amount of times she has donated blood. “I started in high school,” she said, noting the importance of giving because “there’s always a shortage.”

“I still can’t look at the needle,” she said with a laugh, but, “usually, if I’m here, I’ll do it.”

Chronicling the process from registration to post-donation refreshments, Mendelero described numerous steps, from the reading of a packet of warnings to testing blood pressure and iron levels to a detailed computer questionnaire.

The process takes about 45 minutes, which does not always fit in a hectic work schedule. Mendelero acknowledged, “I’m going right back up to work after this.”

Like Freyman, Mendelero noticed that many of her peers were out of the office.

“People are on vacation in August,” she said, explaining the limited number of donors.

To boost donations, the national American Red Cross partnered with Target to offer free $5 gift cards to all donors through Aug. 31. Dunkin’ Donuts also contributed locally, giving donors coupons for a free donut and iced coffee.

“We couldn’t do our mission without our community sponsors,” Mauger said, “and the Jewish Federation is one of our greatest sponsors, stepping up during this critical time.”

She encouraged potential donors to visit redcrossblood.org to locate upcoming blood drives in the area.

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