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Area blood banks say donations decline more than usual over spring break holiday
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Pat Powell, right, with LifeSouth, prepares Robert Phillips for a blood donation Thursday at the LifeSouth Community Blood Center in Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

To give blood:
LifeSouth Community Blood Center, 1200 McEver Road, Gainesville; 770-658-9252, www.lifesouth.org
American Red Cross, 675 White Sulphur Road, Gainesville, 770-532-8453; Donor Center, 311 SW Jesse Jewell Parkway, No. 102, Gainesville, 770-532-4620; www.redcross.org

Spring break is almost over for the Gainesville and Hall County community, and with it ending, local blood banks are hoping to see a rise in blood donations.

Officials with LifeSouth Community Blood Center said donations have declined more than usual with this spring break holiday.

“We think the issue is people went away (on spring break). We believe it has something to do with it,” said Michael Becker, district community development coordinator for LifeSouth. “It happens every year around spring break but not to this extent.”

Kathleen Krueger, donor recruiter for LifeSouth’s Northeast Georgia Region, agreed.

“We’re very challenged in December and spring break. Some are getting into the habit of donating (blood),” she said. “I think people don’t realize the urgency (in donating blood). Some people will donate when there’s a call to action (like a disaster).”

Becker said the center used signs as advertisement to draw in people for more blood donations, but the biggest source for luring new donors has been through the existing donors.

Krueger also said education in blood donation could help people know if they’re eligible. She said some illnesses, vacations and tattoos all contribute to the decline in donations.

According to LifeSouth’s website, only 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent of those do annually.

Robert Phillips donates blood annually. Phillips gave blood on Thursday at LifeSouth’s Gainesville office. Phillips said he donates blood to “help people.” He said he’s been donating blood for a long time, and that the people at the LifeSouth office are friendly every time he does so. Phillips’ son donated blood as well.

According to Kristen Stancil, program manager for the Southern Blood Services Region for the American Red Cross, the organization is seeing the same shortage of blood this time of year, and that more donations are always needed.

“Typically, during the winter and summer months, donations go down,” she said. “The need for donations always continues.”

Stancil said 3 percent of eligible donors give blood. The Red Cross’ emphasis has been to give early, before a disaster, such as a tornado or hurricane, strikes.

“We definitely ask people to donate beforehand (with natural disasters). One thing we always emphasize to people is the ‘blood on the shelves will help people’. If you’re unable to donate, ask a friend to donate in your place,” she said.

Like LifeSouth, Stancil said the Red Cross’ donations are limited because things like medications, tattoos and certain travel restrictions can cause someone not to donate.

“We do need people to feel good the day they donate,” Stancil said.

Joni Smith, executive director of the Red Cross’ Northeast Georgia Chapter, said the goal is to encourage younger people to donate before spring break in case they choose to get a tattoo that would make them ineligible. According to the Red Cross’ website, you have to wait 12 months after getting a tattoo to donate blood.

“A lot of times we try to get people to donate prior to spring break,” she said

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