SUMMERDALE, Alabama — Many residents heeded the call for blood at Baldwin EMC’s Spring Into Action drive on Thursday, March 19 and officials say more is needed to combat the critical need caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We do a lot of blood drives at high schools and colleges in the area and because all those institutions are now closed because of the virus, all of those events have had to be canceled,” said Angela Morris Williams, District community development coordinator for the Coastal Alabama District with LifeSouth. “This has created a critical need for blood in our area now more than ever.”
LifeSouth is a non-profit community blood bank that served more than 100 hospitals in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Local hospitals include Thomas Hospital, North Baldwin Infirmary, University Hospital, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, Mobile Infirmary, Spring Hill Medical Center and Providence Hospital in Mobile, also Atmore Community Hospital in Escambia County, Grove Hill Hospital in Clarke County, Singing River and Ocean Springs hospitals in Mississippi.
“The Red Cross reaches beyond the area to supply blood nationwide and there is OneBlood which serves several hospitals in Florida,” Williams said, “but for Coastal Alabama, LifeSouth is the organization that serves hospitals throughout the area. If you or a loved one are in need of blood and go to a hospital anywhere in Baldwin or Mobile County, that blood comes from us.”
In addition to all types of blood, there is a critical need for blood platelets used for cancer patients.
“We are urging everyone to call our blood centers and make an appointment to donate for blood platelets,” Williams said. Locally, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers are located at 26125 Capital Drive in Daphne and at 967 Hillcrest Road in Mobile.
Local blood donors saved as many as 228 lives by giving blood during Baldwin EMC’s Spring Into Action drive on March 19 in Summerdale. The staff from LifeSouth Community Blood Center collected a total of 76 pints of blood, each of which can benefit as many as three people.
Specifically, the event was held in two LifeSouth Community Blood Centers bloodmobiles, which were parked at the cooperative’s Summerdale location. The Shred-It donation event was also canceled.
No more than two donors were allowed on each bus at one time, Williams said, with no more than 10 people total allowed at a time on each bus.
Mark Ingram, Baldwin EMC’s vice president of corporate services and public relations, says the donations from the Spring Into Action event were received with extra appreciation this time around.
“Due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to make a few adjustments this year,” Ingram said. “While there is always a need for blood donations, right now that need is critical. We tried to get that message across to the community while, at the same time, understand and respect that people are trying to adhere to the current CDC guidelines and stay home as much as possible.”
The ultimate response from the Baldwin County community, however, was nothing short of surprising, Ingram said.
“Every time we host this event, we are overcome by the generosity and outpouring of support from the people in this community. We didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of turnout when we opened the event at 8 a.m. But then, just as they always do, the folks showed up.”
Ingram said the Spring Into Action drive is a part of Baldwin EMC’s vision to be community involved. “As a member-owned cooperative, we’re called to do much more for our community than just provide electricity. Right now, more than ever, we are all doing what we can to help our neighbors. Whether it’s picking up groceries for someone, sharing goods from our pantries, or, in this case, maybe even saving a life.”
Williams said blood centers are now open seven days a week with extended hours. In Daphne, the center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. In Mobile, the hours have been extended to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
In addition, LifeSouth’s mobile donation centers will be out in parking lots at local businesses throughout the area, providing opportunities to give. If you would like to host a blood drive, contact Williams at 251-706-1470, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-888-795-2707 or visit the Website, lifesouth.org.
“We are going to be out in any area that’s visible from the highway,” Williams said. “In Baldwin County, that means all along Highway 59 and Highway 98. Just look for the big red, white and blue bus.”
Each pint of blood has the potential to save as many as three lives, including accident victims, those fighting chronic illnesses and patients recovering from surgery.
Everyone at least 17 years old, 110 pounds and in generally good health is invited to donate blood. All blood types are needed, and first-time donors are welcome. The pints they receive will benefit local medical centers, including Thomas Hospital, North Baldwin Infirmary, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and Mobile Infirmary, among many others in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
“Right now, there has not been a case of the virus known to have been transmitted through a blood transfusion,” Williams said. “We have a strict screening process that was already in place when this crisis began. If you have a fever, cough or are on antibiotics, among other things, you will not be allowed to give blood.”