JAY — The Red Cross is out for blood. Literally.

Vacations make summer months challenging not just to collect donations, but even to staff them. Blood donations become critical between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Currently the Red Cross has less than a three–day supply of most blood types available and less than a two–day supply of type O blood. Blood donations are currently being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in and more are needed to replenish the blood supply. People with Type O—both negative and positive—are the most sought after donors.

“Even the most loyal, volunteer donors take vacations and their schedules change,” said Mary Brant, External Communications Manager for the Red Cross. “Blood donations at high school and college blood drives account for as much as 20% of donations during the school year. Donations from those who usually give at these drives drop by more than 80% when school is out for the summer.”

Staffing blood drives is also a challenge in July and August. According to Brant, Maine holds 25–35 blood drives around the state each week. But employees deserve vacations too.

Ryan, a recent University of Maine at Orono graduate from Gorham, was training at a blood drive held at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay on August 13.

Ryan and Janet, American Red Cross employees, are part of the organization’s mobile blood services staff. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

“I decided to work for the Red Cross after a friend started and told me about it,” Ryan said. “I’m taking a year off—I’m not sure whether I want to become a physician’s assistant or go to chiropractor school. I will need to have 1,000 medical hours to start a PA program so I’m logging my hours in preparation, and getting experience in the field.”

His trainer Janet has been with the Red Cross for 13 years. She lives in Kennebunk but travels as far as Aroostook County and into New Hampshire 4–5 days a week working on drives. Only recently has she started training other personnel.

“Ryan is just my second trainee,” she said. “I wish I’d done this a long time ago. I’ve always said that the donors are the best part of my job, but I find I really enjoy working closely with new staff and see them come along. Ryan is doing a great job.”

St. Rose of Lima Parish blood donors enjoying snacks and refreshments after giving up their pint said universally the reason they donate is because it’s the right thing to do.

Picture l-r: Tammy Horne of Livermore Falls, James Ferrari of Livermore Falls, Tim Cummings of Tennessee, Terry McManus of New Sharon, and Polly Newcombe of New Hampshire relax after donating at a Red Cross blood drive in Jay on Tuesday. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

“The only way to help is to donate,” said James Ferrari of Livermore Falls. “I’ve been doing it for thirty years. But it’s not just to feel good for others.

“I’m not leaving without my tee shirt!” he joked.

Tammy Horne of Livermore Falls agreed. “It’s a good thing. There is so much need and only one way to fill it.”

Longtime donors keep the Red Cross going during lean summer months. Polly Newcombe of New Hampshire is a summer resident of Livermore Falls and has been donating locally during the summer months since the 1980s. Terry McManus of New Sharon has also been a donor for thirty years. And why does he do it?

“I can, and they need it,” he said simply.

“I came all the way from Tennessee to donate,” quipped Tim Cummings, who is working in Jay for several month. He was the newest donor recruit in the group, giving his first blood in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. “Like everyone else said, it gives me a chance to help others. And now, when my friends accuse me of not doing any good I have a great comeback—I do too! I donate blood!”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.