Saving Lives through Blood Drives

Every two seconds, someone in the United States is in need of blood with nearly 21 million blood products being transfused to patients each year. The American Red Cross began collecting blood for patients in 1940, under the leadership of Dr. Charles Drew, after seeing the widespread need for blood donations.

The American Red Cross is a large distributer of our nation’s blood providing blood for patients in approximately 2,600 hospitals across the US. In total, the American Red Cross supplies approximately 40% of our nation’s blood supply! The American Red Cross accomplishes this great feat by working with more than 58,000 blood drive sponsors each year to hold more than 145,000 blood drives, providing convenient locations for people to give blood. Eighty percent of the blood donations given to the Red Cross are collected at mobile blood drives set up at community organizations, companies, high schools, colleges, places of worship or military installations. The remaining 20% of donations are collected at Red Cross donation centers.

Each year, approximately 6.8 million people in the United States donate blood. Less than 38% of the population is eligible to give blood or platelets and, of the eligible population, sadly less than 10% actually donate their blood each year.

All blood collected for transfusion in the US must be from volunteers and the American Red Cross is not able to pay donors for their blood. The process of donating blood is simple, safe and sterile. The American Red Cross boasts their process to donate blood consists of four simple steps: registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation and refreshments. It is a quick process, with the entire process only taking about an hour and fifteen minutes from start to finish. When donating blood, roughly one pint of blood is taken from each donor. The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in their body.

You don’t need to have a specific or special reason to donate blood. Most commonly, donors through the American Red Cross say they donate because they were asked to by a friend, they have family members or friends who may need blood someday and many donors simply believe it is the right thing to do. According to the American Red Cross, the number one reason donors say they give blood is because they “want to help others”.

Local chapters of the American Red Cross in St. Paul and St. Cloud both utilize volunteers from the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Lisa J. Braun, Director) to host and carryout successful blood drives throughout Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties. RSVP is a national volunteer program engaging men and women (age 55 or better) in meaningful volunteer service strengthening the well-being of both self and community.

RSVP volunteers assist at blood drives by welcoming, registering and checking in donors as well as offering canteen services to donors upon completion of their blood donation. Twenty five RSVP volunteers have generously served 322 hours over the past year to the American Red Cross blood drives. As a result of these volunteer hours, 841,744 units of blood were collected by the American Red Cross at blood drives where RSVP volunteers served.

Diane began volunteering with RSVP in 2012 when she was referred to the volunteer program by the American Red Cross. Diane began volunteering with a specific interest in helping with blood drives saying “I really wanted to help in some area but I just couldn’t find the right fit until I found the American Red Cross.” Since joining RSVP Diane has served 70 hours to blood drives throughout in the Sherburne County area.

Diane has volunteered for blood drives at churches, banks, county court houses and other locations and says all of the locations she has served at have been great and very enjoyable. Diane said her motivation to volunteer for the American Red Cross stemmed from an experience she had in the 1970s when her husband was very ill and needed blood for surgeries. Diane said she would have liked to give blood for her husband but she was unable to as she had a fear of needles. The guilt of this harbored with her for a long time until she finally mustered up the courage to donate blood with the American Red Cross and found the donation process was “no big deal” and she “thought it was going to be worse than it is”. Diane now regularly donates blood but also felt drawn to serve in other capacities with the American Red Cross. This led Diane to start volunteering at blood drives and she states “I enjoy watching people who also donate their time and people who volunteer. They just seem uplifted and they’re happy in general.” Diane states volunteering is a way for her to get out in the community and help others and says she would recommend volunteering with the American Red Cross to anyone interested in getting involved.

Whether one is donating blood or assisting with a blood drive, the American Red Cross truly appreciates volunteers’ contributions. The American Red Cross says one blood donation can save up to three lives so they greatly value each blood donation which is received. To learn more about donating blood please visit the American Red Cross website at

RSVP is recruiting more volunteers to serve at the American Red Cross blood drives or other volunteer locations. If you are ages 55 or better and you are interested in making a difference in your community please call the RSVP office at (320)255-7295 or visit our website at to explore the many volunteer opportunities which await you!

Facts and statistics in this article are taken from:

-Jacquie Willis