Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Anna has weathered many a storm since its founding in 1882. The congregation took it in stride when an 80 mile-per-hour wind leveled the original wooden church in 1948, and promptly built a new church out of Indiana limestone. Church volunteers are equally calm and steadfast while hosting one of Shelby’s largest community blood drives, always during the bustling week before Christmas.
The tradition continued Tuesday, Dec. 17 with Community Blood Center (CBC) set up in the safe haven of the church basement. The blood drive registered 209 donors and resulted in 189 blood donations for 116% of the collection goal.
Automated machines for platelet, plasma and double red blood cell donations were carried down by elevator, the kitchen served up steaming Sloppy Joe sandwiches, the Donor Café was laden with dozens of home-made holiday cookies, a Christmas tree twinkled, and right on cue – Santa Claus made an appearance, handing out candy canes before settling down to donate blood.
“Santa” is donor James Goettemoeller from Botkins. “I’ve been playing Santa for 34 years,” he said as he made a double-red blood cell donation. “I bought an outfit from JC Penny and wore it out. My sister made me this one and it’s not too bad.” He’ll be back at Sacred Heart – in costume – for the children’s Christmas party on Sunday.
Next to Santa was blood drive coordinator Tom Albers, also donating double red blood cells for his 170th lifetime donation. The blood drive is an annual service project for the Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus, and Tom and his wife Angie make sure it has a holiday touch.
“We usually have about 200 people,” he said. “I do most of the cooking, Sloppy Joe’s and ham, and vegetable soup for the workers. My wife lines up the cookies. She calls about 20 people and asks to donate cookies. They all make them. We end up with about 40 dozen cookies.”
Beth Poeppelman came over to the Donor Café after making her 9th lifetime donation, and a star-shaped cookie caught her eye. “What can I say?” she said as she reached for it. “I like icing!” But it wasn’t Santa, or even the home-made cookies, that brought Beth to Sacred Heart on a December night with a light snow falling. It was the opportunity to donate. “I live half way between Anna and Covington and it’s close,” she said.
Many donors said they save the date of this late December blood drive is because it falls conveniently into the rotation of blood drives in the county, particularly the bigger blood drives with automated equipment in Fort Loramie, Versailles and Russia.
Dennis Aselage is one of the regular platelet donors. He settled into his 264th lifetime donation with a copy of “Golden Buddah” by Clive Cussler, one of his favorite authors. “I’ve read eight or ten of his already,” he said. Paul Luthman also donated platelets, his 243rd lifetime donation, with his rosary and bible for company. “I’m always chasing him,” he said about Dennis, “but I can’t seem to catch up to him!”
Many high school donors came to the blood drive as soon as school let out. “We heard about it,” said Samantha Burden, who made her third lifetime donation, qualifying her for the CBC Red Cord Honor Program at Anna High School. Classmate Jodie Schmitmeyer made her second lifetime donation. “I live like a block from here,” she said. Marissa Delafuente, who is just 16, made her second lifetime donation. “My first time donating was right after I turned 16,” she said.
Karen Reineke came from work and made her 41st lifetime blood donation. She said the season has been hectic, but donating was a higher priority than shopping. “I still have a gift exchange that I haven’t bought yet,” she said, “but I’m going to hit it hard this weekend.”
“They are invested in this,” said CBC Shelby Co. Account Representative Kathy Pleiman. “They know what the need is and they support it. It’s a small community. They encourage each other. You’ll see a couple of generations donating together – it happens a lot. It’s a really neat thing.”
Next year’s blood drive will fall even closer to Christmas on Dec. 23. It is expected to move to the new Parish Center, a building project the parish was quick to support. It won’t be made from limestone, but like Sacred Heart, it will be built to last.