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Roll up your sleeve and give blood this month

Blood donor Jen Myers, center, is supported by her son, cancer survivor Nick Myers, and Red Cross staff member G. West at a recent blood drive in Gulfport’s Orange Grove community.
Blood donor Jen Myers, center, is supported by her son, cancer survivor Nick Myers, and Red Cross staff member G. West at a recent blood drive in Gulfport’s Orange Grove community. American Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Southeast Mississippi is working to keep blood levels up as hurricane season nears its peak.

Red Cross staff and volunteers from the South Mississippi chapter and the central Gulf Coast plan a series of blood drives this month. They say August is when the interest in giving blood is usually at its lowest.

They’re using the annual observance of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to help attract several hundred donors.

The Katrina Memorial Blood Drive will be on the 11th anniversary of the killer storm. The drive will be at Biloxi’s Edgewater Mall from noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 29 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 30.

Denise Smith, Red Cross account manager for Alabama and the central Gulf Coast, said the organization is determined to pass the event’s goal of 374 units of blood donated over the two-day period. Last year, the blood Drive exceeded that number, getting close to 400 donations.

“ I would really like to see us have at least 500 people come through the doors between those two days to make sure those donations are made,” Smith said at a luncheon Wednesday at the White House Hotel.

Stations will be set up near the rock wall at Edgewater. Free T-shirts and other prizes from mall vendors will help make the giving of blood just a little more festive.

“When you donate a pint of blood, you’re saving three lives,” Smith said. “Nationwide, the American Red Cross draws 14,000 units of blood per day.”

The blood drive spotlights the anniversary of Katrina’s attack on the Gulf Coast, which revealed all of the important services Red Cross provides in addition to supplying blood.

Special incentives for blood donors include a $5 Amazon gift card for those who donate and leave a valid email address. Potential donors also are urged to use the Red Cross’ RapidPass program — an online pre-donation and health history questionnaire — the morning before the donation.

The blood drive also will be set up to accept the more extensive double red cell donations, where the platelets and plasma are separated from the blood, needed for more serious situations such as treating cancer patients.

In addition to its three major blood drives in South Mississippi, the Red Cross also has worked with high schools to hold their own blood drives to earn scholarship dollars.

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