ANNA, Ohio – The annual Knights of Columbus blood drive at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church is not just a tradition in McCartyville. It’s a small Christmas miracle.
“Let’s face it, it’s as small a town as you’re going to get doing a blood draw,” said Tom Albers, who has coordinated the blood drive for 17 years. “It’s a good community. We don’t have 200 people in McCartyville and we get 200 to show up for the blood draw.”
The Tuesday, Dec. 19 blood drive lived up to Tom’s expectations. Community Blood Center registered 210 whole blood donors resulting in 191 whole blood donations, plus 12 platelet and plasma donors for 103 percent of the collection goal.
The Parish Activity Center was festive with Christmas music, the aroma of steaming Sloppy Joe sandwiches and vegetable soup, and cheerful holiday cookies on the tables in the Donor Café. Tom made the rounds, delivering cookies to the row of apheresis donors.
Russia’s Bill Tady donated plasma for his 157th lifetime donation. He wore a red CBC t-shirt and red CBC socks received at previous blood drives, and his CBC “Donor for Life” jacket. “I did it purposefully because it’s Christmas,” Bill said. “I told my wife I even have red underwear on!”
Sacred Heart unveiled the Parish Activity Center in December of 2014, just in time for the blood drive to move from the church basement to its spacious new home. Volunteer Mary Anthony from Fort Loramie still has the original CBC “Be a Deer – Donate Blood” t-shirt featured at the 2014 blood drive and she compared it to the new version worn by donor Nancy Stiefel.
Long-time Sacred Heart donors like Paul Luthman consider being able to donate a blessing in itself. “It’s my home parish,” said Paul. “I’m just glad to be on the giving end instead of the receiving, for as long as I can stay healthy.”
A special spirit of giving came from a group of young Anna High School students. Some made their first lifetime donations Tuesday. “We all finished exams for the day,” said Gabe Ludington. “Anna kids like to give blood so we all came out.”
“We were able to leave early,” said Caleb Crust. “Tomorrow is our final exams of the year. We only have one more day of school on Thursday and we go on Christmas break.”
“I first started when I was a teenager at New Bremen High School,” said Fort Loramie’s Rose Meyer, who made her milestone 100th lifetime donation Tuesday. “It’s a good thing to do, to help people out.”
Tom Albers made a double red blood cell donation Tuesday to reach 194 lifetime donations. He talked about making his 200th, then perhaps passing on the role of blood drive coordinator to the younger generation. But he admitted, “I say that every year.”
Sacred Heart’s annual little miracle is a hard to give up. The volunteers say the work hard is in the preparation, especially the food. But the blood drive itself is a time to greet neighbors and celebrate as a community.
“To me, it’s a great time of year,” said Tom. “To me, it’s part of my Christmas.”