KITTY HAWK, N.C.
A Catholic church here has collected more blood in 2018 than any other group in an area that stretches from Gloucester, Va., to Hatteras Village, N.C. and includes all of Hampton Roads.
The Holy Redeemer by the Sea Catholic Parish amassed 670 units of blood at six different drives, said Shannon Revels, senior account manager for the Coastal Virginia District of the American Red Cross.
The next closest among the 750 sponsoring groups here was the Smithfield Community drive held at the United Methodist Church, which collected more than 415 units.
The last drive, held Dec. 5, gathered 161 units, a new single-day record for the Catholic church.
“This is what Christians are supposed to do,” said the Rev. William Walsh, pastor of the Catholic church. “We’re very much concerned about our community.”
The event began 21 years ago as a way to reach more people outside of the parish, said Mike Kopnski, chairman of the blood drive. Since then, it has grown from one drive per year to six.
The church uses several methods to attract donors.
The drives are advertised on radio, and a volunteer calls more than 400 regular donors. Well-known Outer Banks restaurants such as The Jolly Roger and The Black Pelican offer free lunches.
Local groups help sponsor the event, generating interest among their members. The Outer Banks Association of Realtors sponsored the drive in December. Duck United Methodist Church also helps, Kopnski said.
The plan is to include more local churches and groups, Kopnski said. Holy Redeemer's goal is to reach 900 units in 2019, breaking last year’s total, he said.
Donors have options.
Most people donate whole blood — approximately 1 pint — which is later separated into red blood cells, platelets and plasma, said Bernadette Jay, external communications manager for the Red Cross’ Mid-Atlantic Blood Services Region.
People can also give just red blood cells, platelets or plasma and have an impact on more people with a single visit, she said. Plasma or platelets can only be given at Red Cross donation centers.
The mid-Atlantic region, which covers 92 counties in North Carolina and Virginia, needs 350 donors a day year-round to keep up with demand, she said. Blood is good for just 42 days.
Collections often fall off during the holidays, but storms, including hurricanes Florence and Michael, caused the cancellation of several drives. The blood supply barely kept up with demand, Jay said.
“If your loved one is in the hospital and needs blood, it should be there,” she said. “There is a constant need for blood.”