Regional blood drives draw donors amid shortage

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Thorn Creek Church and the Lansing American Legion welcome donors

By Josh Bootsma and Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (November 8, 2020) – Two blood drives took place in the region on Saturday—one at Thorn Creek Church in South Holland, and the other at the American Legion in Lansing. Both drives invited donors to safely give blood in a pandemic where blood is of short supply.

As COVID-19 cases increased this year, blood donor numbers decreased. People were wary about leaving their homes, and the idea of giving blood—already a daunting task for some—did not make the cut of “essential activities” for many. Roxanne White, Donor Recruitment Representative at blood donation organization Vitalant, said over 200 of their blood drives had been cancelled since March. White said area hospitals have about a three-day supply of blood on hand where they usually try to have a two-week supply.

Thorn Creek Church blood drive

Starting at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Thorn Creek Church in South Holland (1875 E 170th Street) opened its doors to blood donors who had reserved a time to donate. In March of this year, Thorn Creek member Kimberly Blummer lost her battle with cancer, and Saturday’s blood drive was held in her honor.

According to her son Brian Blummer, who gave blood on Saturday, Kimberly donated blood on a regular schedule. “Every eight weeks she could donate, and like clockwork she had the appointment,” he said. “It was something that was very special to her.”

Blummer said his mother would go to Vitalant—formerly Lifesource—in Lansing to donate, a habit she instilled in him as well. “She got me doing it early. I think as soon as I was able she was bringing me along, and we’d get in the chairs across from each other,” he said.

Brian Blummer said his mom Kimberly Blummer donated blood every eight weeks, “like clockwork,” before she passed away in March. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Thorn Creek member Lorna Bischof, a friend of Kimberly Blummer, organized Saturday’s blood drive. Bischof used to oversee the blood drives that took place at Thorn Creek, which started in 1992. “For twenty years I was the ‘blood lady,'” she said, and although Thorn Creek has not hosted blood drives in recent years, she was eager to start the “Kimberly Blummer 1st Annual Memorial Blood Drive” in honor of her friend, securing 66 donors for the drive.

“When she passed away, I thought, ‘This would be a good way to honor her,'” Bischof said of Kimberly Blummer, who was a Lansing resident for 26 years, an active member of Thorn Creek Church, and an avid piano player.

Saturday’s blood drive at Thorn Creek Church was titled, “Kimberly Blummer 1st Annual Memorial Blood Drive.” (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Bischof offered goodie bags to participants as well as pumpkins and handmade cloths.

Vitalant Donor Recruitment Representative Roxanne White said Vitalant was grateful to receive the needed blood donations. “Due to the fact people don’t donate as often as they used to, and the pandemic—you know, there’s a little bit of fear behind it—we’re desperately in need,” she said. She also mentioned the holiday season is usually a period where donations are slow, but the need for blood often increases, making Saturday’s drive all the more important.

Vitalant also promised all donors on Saturday that their blood would be tested for COVID antibodies, saying on their flyer, “If you’re positive, you could help patients with a convalescent plasma donation.”

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Event organizer Lorna Bischof (left) and Vitalant Donor Recruitment Representative Roxanne White organize the reception table in the small gymnasium at Thorn Creek Church in South Holland. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
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After check-in, donors sat at socially distant chairs and waited for the next available Vitalent representative. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
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Donors then went to the interviewing area, where a Vitalant representative conducted interviews with participants to make sure they were eligible to donate blood. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
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After donors completed the interview, they sat in socially-distant chairs and made their donations. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Blood drive organizer Lorna Bischof (center) sits with Wes Blocker (left) and Wayne Miedema at the snack table after the two men’s donations. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

American Legion Auxiliary blood drive

Auxiliary members Sandi Gangolf and Sheila Reed were responsible for initiating and organizing Saturday’s blood drive held at the American Legion from 10:00am–2:00pm. Gangolf is always looking for ways the Auxiliary can be involved in the community, and the Legion Hall offers an ideal space for a blood drive.

Auxiliary members Sandi Gangolf (left) and Sheila Reed initiated and organized Saturday’s blood drive at the American Legion. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Donors can use their own devices to complete the health questionnaire.

Reed said that in addition to providing much needed blood, the drive offered donors a free opportunity to be tested for SARS CoV-antibodies. This is different from COVID testing, but it can let people know if they have been infected with COVID-19 in the past. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.”

The Auxiliary worked with Versiti to serve nearly two dozen blood donors by appointment and walk-in.

Technology updates have made the check-in process easier and even more hygienic—not only at Saturday’s blood drives but as a matter of course. Every potential donor is temperature-checked before being allowed to participate. The standard health questionnaire is now accessible by smartphone or tablet, so donors can use their own devices to complete it. After Versiti medical staff review the responses, they also check each donor’s blood pressure and iron levels.

Judy Davis gave blood on Saturday in memory of her brother, who was a regular blood donor. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Lansing Village Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich also donated blood on Saturday. As a healthcare professional, Grady-Perovich is acutely aware of the need for blood donations, and as a supporter of veterans she is eager to participate in Legion events. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Blood donors could choose from a variety of gifts made available by Versiti. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

It is not necessary to wait for a blood drive to make a blood donation. The Lansing Vitalant location is open four days a week:

  • Monday, 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Tuesday, 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Wednesday, Closed
  • Thursday, 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Friday, Closed
  • Saturday, 7:00 AM to 1:30 PM
  • Sunday, Closed

The Lansing Vitalant is located at 2 River Plaza in Lansing, Illinois.

In Lansing, Vitalant (formerly known as LifeSource) is located at 2 River Place. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Lansing Friends!
    I was glad to read about the blood drives that were accomplished on Saturday, however, I don’t think I was notified about when and where they would be held?? If it was printed in the Journal previous to Saturday, I must have missed it. I would have contacted the folks at Thorn Creek to see if I could have donated!!! Sorry that I didn’t read about it until just now. I try to keep track of that type of news when I can help out. 🙁

  2. Dear Barbara,
    Sorry we missed you! With Covid restrictions we kept it to members and friends of Thorn Creek Reformed Church and the Blummer family. If anyone would like to donate in memory of Kim Blummer, they can call 1-877-258-4825 to schedule an appt at the Lansing office. Use group code 0071 for Thorn Creek Reformed Church by Nov. 21st.
    Many thanks to Josh for coming out and supporting the drive, 59 units were collected!
    Lorna Van Kley – Bischof

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