Since 1964, Ted Cook has been the blood donation drive coordinator at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster. Since 1998 alone, Cook has been behind 6,658 units — a unit being roughly a pint — of blood donated from the church.
On Wednesday evening, after receiving an award from the Western Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross in recognition of more than 40 years of service coordinating blood drives, Cook explained why he did it.
“In World War II, my mother and my aunt donated 10 gallons of blood each,” he said, equivalent to about 80 units of blood for each woman. Cook became involved coordinating blood drives after he set out to personally match his family members’ donations — all 20 gallons of blood himself, during his lifetime.
“I came up a pint short,” he said. His doctors wouldn’t approve the last donation so he could make it to 20.
Carroll County has a long history of committed involvement with the Red Cross, according to Beverley Rowe Stambaugh, executive director of the Western Maryland Chapter, to which the Carroll County Chapter belongs. During World War I, Carroll County membership in the Red Cross hit 17,000 people, or about half the county population.
That was in 1918, one year after President Woodrow Wilson signed the Carroll County chapter’s charter in 1917: Stambaugh, Cook, local Red Cross, and volunteers and local officials had come out Wednesday night to celebrate the centennial of the Red Cross in Carroll.
Dressed in a vintage Gray Lady uniform, the gray uniform worn by Red Cross nurses from 1945 into 1960, Stambaugh spoke not only of the history of the Red Cross in Carroll, but what the organization’s volunteers are doing today.
There are currently 67 volunteers from Carroll County serving with the Red Cross, Stambaugh said, assisting military families, installing smoke detectors, training people in first aid and, of course, responding to disasters. Carroll Volunteers have responded to the floods in Ellicott City and Louisiana, to North Carolina for Hurricane Matthew, she said, and on Monday, a volunteer will be headed to northern California to respond to the fires there.
Volunteers, Stambaugh told the people gathered Wednesday evening, “are the heart and soul of the Red Cross.”
And those volunteers don’t just fly off to help people in other parts of the country or the world, according to Stephanie Kimble, a volunteer who has been with the Western Maryland Chapter for about a year and a half.
“Locally we respond to house fires. If any resident has suffered a house fire, we respond within 30 minutes,” she said.
That’s a service that drew praise from Carroll County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who was in attendance and is also a volunteer firefighter with the Pleasant Valley Fire Company.
“One of the first calls we make after we have taken care of the emergency is the Red Cross, time and time again,” he said. “I can’t thank you enough.”
But to have that kind of response, both Kimble and Stambaugh noted, the Red Cross needs volunteers.
“There is a great need and there is a great variety of jobs that you can do,” Kimble said. “If you want to respond to the fires, if you are more of a community educator, and you want to go out and educate the children about preparedness, we can put you in there.”
Those interested, Stambaugh said, can go to www.redcross.org to learn more.
“Please join us,” she said. “The more volunteers that are out there helping our fellow neighbors, the better our communities are going to be.”