The 31st annual Masonic Community Blood Drive was in full swing Friday morning with chairs full of donors and more waiting at the Statesville Civic Center.
Duane Smyth, who organizes the drive, said the group’s goal was to collect 525 pints at nine locations throughout the day.
“It’s a team effort,” Smyth said. “Some people have been helping since the first drive.”
Planning began in August as volunteers discussed methods to increase donorship, renting facilities and getting T-shirts for donors ready.
There have been several changes over the years. Smyth said the organization was shifting to more digital communication to get word out about the drive.
Organizing the drive has also become more expensive. To rent the space and purchase shirts in addition to other products used to persuade people to donate, costs range from $5,500 to 6,000. Because of that, Smyth said the group had transitioned from seeking individual donation to corporate ones.
“The key is injecting new blood and ideas into the drive,” he said.
Twenty Masons volunteer to make the event happen in Statesville alone. Smyth said more than 100 Masons were needed to run all nine locations.
Red Cross account manager Julie Farr said 70 to 80 Red Cross employees were necessary for the drive, but it’s important because the drive brings in so many pints. On an average day, the Red Cross collects about 350 pints of blood in the area. Last year, the Masonic drive brought in 500, and they’re hoping for more this year.
Farr said employees have to be brought to the area from Durham, Asheville and Winston-Salem.
Now is a good time to donate because there is a drop in donations in January. Farr said, as people travel during the holidays, so they aren’t as likely to donate. The Red Cross can’t accept blood from sick people, so flu season creates a drop in donations as well.
By afternoon, Smyth said there had been a steady turnout with a mix of appointments and walk-ins. The Masons lucked out with relatively warm weather and little rain. In years past, the group has had to manage ice and bad weather, which discourages walk-ins. If the weather is too bad, potential donors won’t even keep appointments.
On any given day, there are 20 drives in the area people can attend to donate blood. Smyth said people make a point of donating at the Mason’s drive.
In return, the Masons try to pamper their donors. Smyth said they offer fresh-baked cookies and a chance to win a cooler.
“It’s amazing how many people are committed to donating to the blood drive,” Smyth said.
He pointed out a woman who was starting the first pint of her 23rd gallon of donated blood.
Smyth said he also enjoyed talking to young people who were donating the first time and possibly starting a tradition.
Richard Lowrance is a Mason and has attended the drive every year. He said he has donated 4 to 5 gallons of blood.
He was a medic in the Army. Because of that, he said he understands the importance of donating.
“People need blood, and you can’t buy that,” Lowrance said.