FORT LORAMIE, Ohio – The “Sweetheart Blood Drive” Tuesday, Feb. 16 at St. Michael’s Hall arrived with the fields around Fort Loramie still frosted by the St. Valentine’s Day snowfall. The three community blood drives at St. Michael Parish are always the busiest of the year in Shelby County, and the crowd Tuesday was encouraged by warm thoughts of Valentines and early signs of spring.
“It’s been consistently busy all day,” said blood drive coordinator Jane Poeppelman. “They’ve done a better job honoring appointments, and we’ve expanded our horizons – we have both chicken AND ham salad sandwiches! Plus, we have yogurt donated by Dannon this year instead of Jell-O!”
The Donor Café was also bright with heart-shaped St. Valentine cookies and treats and busy with volunteers from the Fort Loramie Community Service Club and the American Legion Auxiliary. Dannon is a new sponsor this year, and support from the Knights of St. John also helps fund refreshments.
Perhaps it was the new horizon of chicken salad and yogurt, but Tuesday’s blood drive was busier than last year by an additional 28 donors. The blood drive had 317 whole blood registrations and 290 donations for 115 percent of the collection goal, plus nine platelet donations.
Volunteer Mary Wendeln was one of the six first-time donors. “Jan called me and I came to help,” she said. “I always think about donating, but end up forgetting about it. I thought, I’m here, I’ll try it.”
The coming of spring sunshine was on the minds of the regular platelet and plasma donors at St. Michael’s. Shelby County Commission Chairman Bob Guillozet made his 186th lifetime donation after coming from the Tuesday commission meeting, where they talked about a grant that would add solar panels to the county recycling center.
Bob Schwartz wore a Cincinnati Reds ball cap as he made his 53rd lifetime donation. He got four tickets to Reds games as a Christmas present and can’t wait to start using them. “That’s why I wore it,” he said with a smile. “Pitchers and catchers report Thursday.”
Kevin Pleiman of Fort Loramie was one of 14 people who made double-red blood cells donations Tuesday, bringing his lifetime donation count to 66. He also had baseball on his mind. “Both my boys play baseball, the oldest is a freshman at Fort Loramie,” he said. “They’ve been working indoors and next Monday is the first day of baseball practice in Ohio.”
Logan Gigander, a junior at FLHS, came to St. Michael’s after school to make his milestone fifth lifetime donation. “It’s a good thing to do and I like doing it,” he said.
After-school donors included a group from Houston: Ryan Swob and Bryce Norris made their fourth donations; Carlie Bergman and Meagan Hasselbeck made their third; sisters Haeley and Audrey Kittel came for their second donation.
New Bremen donor Harold Long came after work to make his 92nd lifetime donation. His history as a blood donor is parallel to his 35 years with Crown Equipment. “I was in a welding class at JVS in Piqua (now the Upper Valley Career Center). It was my senior year and that was my first donation. I graduated in 1980 and my instructor, Jim Westfall called and said get over to Crown because they were hiring. I started the next day and have been there ever since.”
The sparks are still flying as well for Rose and Leroy Meyer of Fort Loramie, who donated together at the Sweetheart Blood Drive. For Leroy, it was his milestone 70th lifetime donation, but Rose is the top donor in the family with 93.
They both had Coban bandages on their arms from donating as they sat in the Donor Café, but it was Rose who wore a Fitbit activity tracking watch on her wrist. The agreed whole heartedly that staying healthy is a key to maintaining a long history as a blood donor.
“My fit helps me get my 10,000 steps a day,” she said. She took another bite of her apple and said, “And no cookies.” Leroy reached for another pink Valentine heart-shaped cookie and said, “But I can eat them!”