January marks blood donor month

Local drives encourage blood donations
Gilroy – Debbie Johnson’s grandmother used to run an American Red Cross office in Morgan Hill, so Johnson learned at an early age that donating blood was a good thing. And as soon as she was old enough, she began donating four times a year.

But people get busy, and about eight years managed to slide by that Johnson didn’t donate. She decided Tuesday would be the day she started donating again, so she came to Slender Lady of Gilroy from her home in Morgan Hill to give blood.

“It’s for a good cause, and I’m willing to do it,” she said while awaiting her turn.

Johnson is one of many people honoring Volunteer Blood Donor Month this month. Although the nearest American Cross blood center to Gilroy is in San Jose, a few local groups have organized their own blood drives including Slender Lady, the First Baptist Church in Gilroy and Church on the Rock Morgan Hill Foursquare.

To mark the launch of Volunteer Blood Donor Month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to American Red Cross blood centers throughout the state encouraging all eligible Californians to donate.

“The demand for blood is greater today than ever before, and California’s blood supply needs constant replenishment,” the governor stated in the letter. “During Volunteer Blood Donor Month, I urge all citizens to pay tribute to those among us who donate for others in need, and I encourage all citizens in good health to donate and give life.”

January has been recognized as National Volunteer Blood Donor Month since 1970. Sara O’Brien, spokeswoman for the American Cross, said it’s often difficult to recruit blood donors this time of year because of inclement weather and people staying busy after the holidays.

California needs more than 1.5 million pints of blood or blood products each year for accident victims, people undergoing surgery and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer and other diseases, O’Brien said.

Giving blood takes about one hour. Most healthy people who are at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds are eligible to donate blood every 56 days. Donors are required to bring to their appointment appropriate identification such as a driver’s license or American Red Cross donor card.

Donors should eat a light meal or snack and drink plenty of fluids before donating blood. To schedule an appointment, call 800-GIVE-LIFE (448-3543) or visit www.beadonor.com and type in Gilroy as the sponsor code.

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