March is the month: Arms up veins out as the Red Cross is holding its annual month-long blood drive. The latest push will take place at various locations in LA, including Crenshaw Christian Center; St. Mary’s Academy high school; Pleasant Hill baptist Church; and Curtis R. Tucker Health Center. The Red Cross holds this annual event to bring the community out to donate blood and acquire new volunteers for future blood drives. The Red Cross workforce is nearly 90 percent volunteer. 

OW recently held a question & answer session with the organization’s Chief Operating Officer Gerald Thomas.

Question:  What is Light Up Red?

Answer:  It is a day to recognize the work our volunteers and staff do in the community, support our partners, provide education and training to support the community with our blood program.

Q: Where are the blood donations happening in South LA?

A: We have opportunities to be a part of mobile blood drives that happen with our community partners that fund them, and the best place to find them would be www.RedCrossblood.org.

Q: When is “Giving day?”

Ar: Giving Day is on March 23rd, and that allows Red Cross supporters and friends to make a financial donation of any size to support the work that we provide. Money goes towards food, shelter, and helps our military members and their families that are on deployment.”

Q: Does the Red Cross collect any data on their donors?

A: When folks donate blood we do what is called a mini-physical, where we check the blood pressure, iron levels, and some other data that is private. Staff can give donors feedback with key pieces of health information like knowing their blood types. Another key thing with blood donations especially with the Black communities is we need more donors. We know that sickle cell anemia heavily impacts the Black community, and we know that when people receive blood transfusions from a similar ethnic match it improves their outcome. We want to make sure that those people with that illness have the best chance to live a healthy life.”

Q: In what ways can the community help the Red Cross and how can the Red Cross help the community?

A: For us, I think it’s showing up and continuing to show up in the community and actively engage in solutions that help the community be more resilient and to be safer. For the community, search out more volunteer opportunities to help us create those solutions. There are also classes the community can take to learn life-saving skills like CPR and first aid. They can give blood, and they can donate and support our relief events.

Q: Why is there a lack of blood donations coming from the Black community?

A: In general, an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, yet only about 3 percent of age-eligible people donate each year so inspiring individuals to roll up a sleeve is something we work at each day regardless of race.

Prior to the pandemic, blood donors who are Black represented just about 4 percent of all Red Cross blood donors, which made it challenging to collect a sufficient number of lifesaving blood donations to meet the needs of sickle cell patients and others in need.

If you are eligible and feeling well, please make an appointment to give today by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, downloading the Blood Donor App, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Q: What are the statistics on other communities’ sickle cell anemia development rate compared to the black community?

 A: In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people – the majority of whom are of African descent – have sickle cell disease and may require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. 

That’s why the Red Cross sickle cell initiative seeks to raise awareness about this health disparity and increase much-needed blood donations from individuals who are Black through community partnerships, which will help ensure closely matched blood products are available for patients with sickle cell disease.

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