EATON, Ohio – It was cloudy and cold in Eaton with snowflakes in the forecast as Sharon Spitler worked her final blood drive Thursday, Jan. 29 as Community Blood Center (CBC) account representative for Preble County. But some of the donors she recruited during her 38 years of helping save lives said farewell by picturing her sunning in a hammock on some far-away beach.
The giant “Happy Retirement” beach card in the Donor Café was nearly as tall as Sharon, with plenty of room for donor signatures and good wishes. The card read, “We will miss your spunk and dedication!” and the message in icing on her congratulations cake was “Preble County Blood Donors will miss you!”
Donors know Sharon for her petit size and Energizer Bunny go-power. In 2014 her 60 blood drives across the county totaled 2,756 registrations and 2,249 units of blood donated. She officially retires Jan. 31 after 38 years with CBC, ending her career with Thursday’s blood drive at Eaton’s Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sponsored by her service sorority Delta Theta Tau.
“When I started I had six blood drives,” she said. “I was the third account representative CBC had here and I took over from my best friend. I thought, ‘What’s six or eight blood drives a year?’ My husband was sheriff at the time and I did all the grocery shopping for the inmates at the jail, plus I was working two days a week at the high school. It’s been a good adventure.”
It was fitting that her final blood drive was sponsored by her service sorority. She’ll stay active helping with Delta Theta Tau’s many community projects, including “Christmas for Kids,” the Jacob’s Ladder backpack lunch program, and the annual blood drive.
“My husband Jan asked me this morning, ‘Are you sad?’” she said. “I said not at all. I’m happy. I’ve met some wonderful people and families, and hopefully by volunteering I’ll still see them occasionally.”
The blood drive was an opportunity for Sharon to introduce donors to CBC Richmond account representative Melinda Frech, who will now coordinate blood drives in Preble County. “I love Melinda and I think the donors have taken to her quite well,” said Sharon.
She thanked all her sponsor groups over the years, her blood drive chairpersons, and “all the dedicated donors – without them there wouldn’t be a Preble County blood bank.” She added, “I’ve been there long enough that the kids and the grandkids are now donors!”
Familiar faces at the blood drive included Camden’s Gary Rust, who made his milestone 175th lifetime donation Thursday, and Eaton’s Virginia Reese who made her 152nd donation. “All my donations have been in Eaton and you’ve been part of all those donations,” Virginia told Sharon.
“Good luck to her! We all look to that time!” said Lewisburg’s Beverly Hargis, who made her milestone 50th lifetime donation at the blood drive and lamented that she’s still a few years away from her own retirement.
Somerville’s Tannar Hess is part of the newest generation of Preble County blood donors, who Sharon will now entrust to her successor Melinda Frech. Tannar was 16 when he first donated at Preble Shawnee High School. He juggled his work schedule in Middletown so he could make his 10th lifetime donation at Thursday’s blood drive.
“She’s been great,” Tannar said. “Always nice and helpful, you can really tell her heart is in it. Melinda is nice too, and I can tell she’s going to be great.”