DAYTON, Ohio – Outreach Pastor Kirk Lithander calls 2010 “the tipping point” for the community blood drive hosted by the Fairhaven Church Centerville Campus. It was named “Paula’s Blood Drive” in memory of his wife Paula, and in the past six years her legacy has grown as Fairhaven became a model for Community Blood Center blood drives.
Fairhaven Church hosts six CBC blood drives a year, with the next scheduled Saturday, Oct. 22 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon in the Multi-Activity Center. This year CBC again honored Fairhaven with the Platinum award in the LifeSaving Ambassadors Club, the highest level of recognition for blood drive achievement.
Fairhaven has been partnering with CBC to host community blood drives since 1997. But it was in 2010 that Fairhaven doubled the number of blood drives to six, increased donors from 130 to 291 and saw donations rise from 105 to 246, a 134 percent increase. Fairhaven now averages more than 325 donors per year.
“That personalized it,” Kirk Lithander said. “People said they wanted to give on behalf of Paula. Not only did church members and people that knew her step up and give, but members of the community wanted to give on behalf of Paula – someone who needed it and benefited from it – and more became regular donors.”
“God was the center of her life and she had a strong faith and a heart for social justice,” is how Kirk described Paula. “She was a pastor’s wife, a missionary, mother of four including one adopted child from Bolivia where we served as missionaries for seven years.” She was best known at Fairhaven for her talent as a vocalist and musician on the Praise Team choir.
She was diagnosed with melanoma in 1996, but Kirk said, “Our prayer was for God to give us time to raise our children. God answered her prayers.” But in 2009 the cancer returned.
“My wife courageously fought stage four malignant melanoma cancer for three and a half months,” said Kirk. “She needed monthly blood transfusions to give her immune system a boost due to her chemo treatments.”
Kirk said Paula launched a CaringBridge Journal website and wrote online about the need for blood transfusions and encouraged donations.
“Instead of curling up in ball, mad at God, mad at the world, she said I’m going to use this CaringBridge Journal to share what’s important to her,” said Kirk. “In the midst of her body being ravaged with cancer, she kept a very positive outlook. She didn’t complain. She said, ‘I’m going to choose joy.’ To this day, someone stops me and says Paula’s ‘I choose joy’ – I have used that so many times with friends going through difficult times.”
Paula lost her battle with cancer on August 5, 2009. Her final journal entry she wrote about her transfusions. “Each drop was given freely and sacrificially,” she said. “Now is a good time to remind people to donate blood. Every unit of blood revived my body.”
“As a pastor I have done many funerals,” said Kirk. “I rejoice when people say ‘we really miss your wife, let me tell you what she did.’ I say thank you God for a wife who has left such a legacy, our family, our community, in our church.”