Invest an hour to save a life?

Photo courtesy Red Cross The Red Cross will hold a blood drive, from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

HURON — If you could help save a life by donating a little bit of yourself and invest an hour in the process, would you?

The American Red Cross will hold a blood donation stop next Thursday, from noon to 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, at 21st and Ohio in Huron.

This opportunity, as many are, will see many familiar faces, as donation stations are often spaced far enough apart so that if you donated at the last one, you will likely be able to fill a chair at this one as well. Two people, Brenda Welch and Chuck Mahowald, who have both been involved in the Red Cross Blood Drive for many years will be there again this time around as well.

“People like Brenda and Chuck are great examples of those who continue to make blood drives like this week’s a positive event,” said Charlotte Henley, the coordinator for the Huron event.

“I guess I got involved by organizing a blood drive back in 2003,” said Welch. “I was working at Northwestern at that time and it was presented as an opportunity to our Sertoma Club. Deannie LeRoux and I organized that drive, which took place at Northwestern.” Welch began donating blood in 2007 and believes that she has surpassed the two-gallon level.

While Welch was instrumental in getting things started, she was frustrated at not being able to donate blood herself.

“At that time, the medication that I was taking for my MS (multiple sclerosis) made it impossible for me to donate. Since then, my medication has changed and I am able to donate, although I am still unable to do a double red blood cell donation.”

During a double red blood cell donation, a machine is used to withdraw whole blood. Red cells are separated and retained, and the remainder of the blood is returned back to the donor. This donation safely removes twice as many red cells than traditional whole blood.Mahowald noted that when he gives his pint on Thursday, it will likely put him past the two-gallon level on his donation journey.

“I did my first blood donation probably 50 years ago when I was at college,” Mahowald said. “I saw a poster and was familiar with the process, so I decided to volunteer.” Mahowald said that many years ago, one of his sisters required a blood transfusion and he recalled that his father donated blood to repay the blood bank. “I remember that and now I donated blood to pay it forward.”

In a similar vein, Welch was motivated to get more involved when after visiting her brother in the hospital, she came upon a vehicle accident where there were extensive injuries. “It was just before our blood drive and it really drove home the point when I saw someone that had a great need. Plus, my father had donated blood for many years and that guided me as well.”

She has worked with Henley on organizing blood drives recently, but over time, more and more of the volunteer activities - signing in participants, going through the questionnaire and such - has been handed off to high school students, who are often recipients of healthcare occupation scholarships through the Red Cross.

After college, Mahowald noted that there was a city-wide call in Huron for blood donations when a member of the police department had been stabbed and needed blood. “I donated then, and about five years ago, I got back in the habit. I guess I have been pretty regular about donating for the past few years.”

“Blood can go anywhere and help anyone,” Welch said. “It’s always needed.”

To make an appointment for Thursday’s Red Cross Blood Drive, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter HuronSD to schedule a time. For as long as they last on Thursday, those donating will receive a 20-ounce aluminum water bottle as a “thank you” as well as a sticker set to personalize the bottle.

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