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Blood drive held in honor of storm victims
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The East-Northeast Georgia ARC Bloodmobile can handle several donors at once. The staff, including team supervisor Karen Leopold, above, are from Gainesville and Athens. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The American Red Cross Bloodmobile made a visit to Gainesville on Friday and received a strong response from local residents.

The blood drive, organized by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, North Georgia Detention Center and American Red Cross, was held in honor of victims of the recent Oklahoma tornado and South Hall County storms.

All donations were used to benefit the Northeast Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Deputy Chad Mann with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said the blood drive was held because of the loss of property and isolation caused by the flooding.

“A lot of folks were shut off from civilization,” Mann said. “It was almost like Lake Lanier Islands added another island.”

Mann said though the blood gathered won’t be directly sent to victims in Oklahoma or even Hall County, the benefit is ultimately there to fill the need for supplies.

“This blood donation you wouldn’t think would benefit something like that, but it does because the blood, in turn, goes to hospitals, and hospitals pay for the blood,” he said.

Others who were working the blood drive for the American Red Cross were pleased to see all of the 18 people who showed up to donate.

“It’s nice to have all these people come out from the sheriff’s department,” Karen Leopold with the American Red Cross said.

She said the goal of blood drives is to keep plenty of blood ready to help when disaster strikes. She was impressed by how many people were willing to participate.

“It’s very important because we’re always short. We don’t even have enough supplies,” Leopold said.
Those who came to donate blood were all very aware of what they were doing and why it makes such a difference, they said.

For one donor, Rick Howard, blood drives are a routine part of living.

“It was time for us to do it,” Howard said. “Throughout the year, my wife and I really try to give blood regularly, so we decided to come down here.”

Though Howard receives electronic notifications of local blood drives and donates often, he does not easily forget the importance of giving, he said.

“I think it’s important because everyone needs to help everybody else out,” Howard said. “It’s one of the only ways, with my busy schedule, that I can actually help out and volunteer. It makes me feel good to contribute.”
The Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page reached another donor, Tommy Nelms, who helps out with blood drives himself along with the Flowery Branch Masonic Lodge. He said it alarmed him when recent storms hit so close to home.

“If you’re in Hall County, we’ve been hit so many times,” Nelms said. “They need help.”

He said he was also glad to be helping the American Red Cross in honor of the Oklahoma tornadoes, which he called “terrible.”

“I felt sadness, in a lot of ways,” Nelms said. “Tornadoes are tough. Hurricanes, you can plan for. Tornadoes, you can’t.”

Nelms will be helping the Masonic Lodge with its blood drive soon. He said that even though disasters can be horrible to witness, it is important to react by taking action.

“We just have to come together and help,” Nelms said.

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