“People don’t realize how critically low our blood supplies are! And they’ve canceled our bloodmobiles when we try to reach out to the community for help! The donation process is safe — we’re so careful!”
Judith Nelson, a member of Norco Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norco, California, United States, overheard this outburst from the phlebotomy technician as she waited to donate blood in April 2020 at the Riverside LifeStream Blood Bank. She asked the technician for more details, and that person replied, “We still need blood. Accidents, hospitalizations, critical conditions — we still need blood. But people are afraid to give! And we keep getting calls to cancel the location visits!”
The pandemic lockdown ravaged so many areas of our lives, with many businesses and churches closed — though reopening now — and many personal services using virtual visits. Yet, the need for blood and blood products continues; there is no virtual substitute.
Stunned to hear the technician’s statement of frustration, Judith alerted her Norco church head elder, Robert Roth. She suggested the church’s Fireside Room Fellowship Hall as a donation site, a convenient location with easy street access, good air circulation, and plentiful parking. Roth contacted LifeStream Blood Bank, the local nonprofit blood bank that provides blood products and services to more than 80 Southern California hospitals and medical facilities in six counties. To fulfill patients' needs, LifeStream must collect 500 blood donations daily.
According to the staff at the Blood Bank, “people were afraid to use the Bloodmobiles, which in the past provided convenient service for donations.”
The LifeStream representative visited the church site and determined that the Fireside Room location was “just right,” providing the space needed for social distancing and safety for donors and blood bank staff. The Norco church board agreed to host two blood drives. Roth acquired the necessary permits and placed attractive signage on the streets of Norco and in our church parking lot to guide participants to the Fireside Room. Advertising took the forms of social media posts, posters provided by LifeStream, and personal invitations from church members.
A couple of weeks before the first Blood Drive at the Norco church, Judith distributed the LifeStream Blood Drive information posters featuring our church address, prominently placed, to more than 30 local businesses, including bars, nightclubs, and convenience stores. Our church is located in “Horsetown, USA,” a city unique for its equestrian-friendly ambiance: bridle trails line the streets instead of sidewalks, traffic light buttons are placed within easy reach for horse-riders, and businesses have convenient corrals for customers who arrive on horseback. The business owners warmly accepted the posters for prominent display at their entrances and checkout areas. Several owners hung our posters right over their point-of-sale machines, so customers would easily see the sign.
The community responded to the blood drive. A woman on horseback saw the sign in front of the church and rode into the parking lot. She tethered her horse to a light post and came in to donate. Community member Mike Tatum was driving by, saw the informational signs, and pulled in. “I’ve never even been down this street before. I had no idea this church was here! I figured, why not give blood with such an easy opportunity?”
As a result of this outreach, community residents and local church members donated 26 pints of blood. The LifeStream Staff, pleased with the facility, asked to come back four times each year.
Although some of those willing to give blood were unable to donate, the church made 30 new community contacts. Donors left the site with gifts, including a CD of H. M. S. Richards Sr. reading the book of Psalms, Giving Light to Our World (GLOW) tracts, and copies of the book Messiah.
The Norco church is blessed with a professional therapeutic masseuse who provides therapeutic massage to calm and relax the donors. As the blood drives were held on Saturday (Sabbath), we played relaxing ambient music, adding a peaceful atmosphere in the Fellowship Hall. Because our church is surrounded by horse properties, we also hear the bray of donkeys, the neighing of horses, the crows of roosters, and even peacock calls in this livestock-zoned area. Donors come in with dusty jeans and battered cowboy boots and are warmly welcomed.
Future plans include staffing an information booth at a local Farmer’s Market in partnership with a local faith-based animal rescue group.
“We’ve made so many positive, affirming contacts when advertising the blood drives, and as I shop at businesses and see our posters prominently displayed, I’m pleased to see the positive influence we have on this town,” Nelson said. “And if the conversations with business owners, Blood Bank staffers, and blood donors lead to gentle sharing about the blood of Jesus, we pray to provide life-saving information about that too.”