Groceries and hand sanitizer weren’t the only things in short supply last spring when COVID-19 hit the nation. The America Red Cross faced a severe blood shortage after an unprecedented number of blood drives were canceled during the coronavirus outbreak.
“As the pandemic grew, we saw blood drive cancellations grow at an alarming rate,” recalls Joe Vella, regional philanthropy officer for the American Red Cross of Northeast Georgia. “This impacted patients who needed surgery, victims of car accidents or other emergencies, and patients suffering from cancer. Healthy individuals were needed to give blood to help patients counting on lifesaving blood throughout the pandemic.”
In Jackson EMC’s service area, 51 blood drives were canceled between March 9 and April 30, amounting to a 1,167-pint blood shortage, according to Vella. With 40% of the nation’s blood supply provided through the American Red Cross, the organization takes pride in the fact that it provides a safe and efficient blood supply to fill the nation’s needs, he adds.
“This is dependent on donors, and the challenge in March led to a crisis,” Vella says. “In Georgia and across the nation, elective surgeries were postponed. In May, elective surgeries were happening again, so we found ourselves urging people to donate blood and urging organizations to stage blood drives.”
The Jackson EMC Foundation grant money was used to fund blood drives by paying for the medical staff and supplies, promotion of the drive, and refrigeration of the blood collected.
“While the coronavirus pandemic has grabbed ahold of us and thrown us into a frenzy, the work of the Red Cross to fill its day-in, day-out mission continues,” says Vella. “The $10,000 from the Jackson EMC Foundation is a significant sum that we didn’t have for biomedical purposes, and we are doing what we can to assure a safe and available blood supply.”
In the coming year, Red Cross will invest $150 million in the U.S. for biomedical relief and research, according to Vella, who says the outlay will fund research on plasma utilization for coronavirus survivors in order to find antibodies necessary to create a vaccine.
Along with ensuring a safe and reliable blood supply, the American Red Cross of Northeast Georgia assists families who lose homes to fire.
“We act as major consolers,” says Vella. “We’re the ones throwing a blanket around those folks in the middle of the night and providing emergency shelter, food and counseling.”
In a recent six-month period, the Red Cross assisted 279 victims of house fires in Gwinnett County alone, according to Vella.
“Jackson EMC members who donate to Operation Round Up want to make sure their money stays local,” he concludes. “With house fire assistance and blood drives, we accomplish both, and we take great pride in that.”