It seems logical that Catholic Charities and the American Red Cross — two major human-services providers in Chemung County — could gain even greater impact by pairing up. That’s the premise under which Steve Hughes, Catholic Charities’ director of development, planned a first-ever blood drive that was cosponsored by the two agencies.
The drive — which took place Sunday, April 30, at St. Mary’s Southside Church in Elmira — indeed proved successful. It attracted 40 donors who gave a total of 34 pints of blood, just one pint short of the drive’s goal.
Other participating churches were Southside Christian Missionary Alliance, South Side Baptist, Centenary Methodist and Pine City Baptist. By operating the drive from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., organizers were able to receive donors before and after Sunday services at St. Mary’s as well as the neighboring churches. Hughes and Joel Robinson, executive director of the American Red Cross Sullivan Trail Chapter, acknowledged that Sunday is not normally a day on which the Red Cross blood-services division conducts its drives, but the need for blood — especially from first-time donors — suggested that it was worth a try.
“New donors are critically important for Red Cross. We have a core of donors that give on a regular basis, but what we need to do is continue to expand that core,” Robinson explained. “So an opportunity like this — to do a drive someplace where we haven’t before, in a new time and in a new way — usually captures us new donors.”
Robinson said the need for donations is profound at all times, noting that only 4 percent of population gives blood. “Hence, there’s almost always a critical shortage of blood,” he said. “It’s usually in Red Cross’s hands for less than 48 hours before it’s back out into a hospital or into a center where it’s needed.”
One of the donors at the April 30 drive was Rick Bacmanski of Horseheads, a freelance photographer who was assigned to take pictures of the event for this article. Bacmanski said he had two reasons for donating: He had been a blood donor in the past, and he was intrigued by the possibility of taking photos while his own blood was being drawn.
“It had been quite a while since I last gave, and being there anyway pretty much gave me no excuse not to,” Bacmanski remarked, adding that his decision was well-received: “The Red Cross staff there thought it was very nice and considerate that I would donate while I was working.”
Based on the positive response from Bacmanski and the other 39 donors who appeared at St. Mary’s Southside, Hughes said it’s likely that a Catholic Charities/Red Cross blood drive will be scheduled in June for Horseheads-area faith communities.
“There are potentially seven to 10 churches that could support the effort up there,” Hughes said, pointing out that St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads along with St. Mary’s Southside are the two largest Catholic parishes in Chemung County. Should a second drive also prove successful, Hughes said he will seek to organize Catholic Charities/Red Cross drives in other parts of the county.
Robinson and Hughes said they hoped this cooperation between the two agencies will point the way toward more collaboration.
“I think this is absolutely something we can build on, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with Catholic Charities on this and perhaps some other endeavors,” Robinson commented.
“Red Cross is in the business of saving lives and responding to disasters. Catholic Charities is, likewise, but in a different way,” Hughes said, noting that Catholic Charities addresses such critical issues as hunger and emergency housing in Chemung County. “The future relationship between Catholic Charities and the Red Cross is encouraging to me. There should be a logical connection between the two providers. Where there be gaps in the service, we could be there to support one another.”