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A Baltimore event producer is now organizing blood drives during coronavirus pandemic

Cancer survivor Brina Furman organized three local blood drives for the Red Cross since the coronavirus pandemic has cancelled thousands of drives nationwide.

As a live event producer for corporate fundraisers and galas, Brina Furman often balances several competing priorities at once: lighting, sound, video, floor plans and more.

Now, with no large-scale functions to plan due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Highlandtown resident is looking to facilitate a different donation: blood.

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On a volunteer basis, she’s secured hundreds of American Red Cross blood donations at three locations, turning to friends, neighbors and contacts to donate their spaces, furniture and vital fluids.

“The Red Cross asked, ‘How many donors can you get?’ And I said, 'I can fill it for days," Furman said. “They thought I was crazy. But when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.”

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Max Singer, of Baltimore, and others donate blood on April 27 the first of a three-day blood drive at the Union Collective organized by cancer survivor Brina Furman. She has organized several local blood drives since COVID-19 broke out by securing venues, coordinating with the Red Cross, promoting them through social media and signing up hundreds of donors.
Max Singer, of Baltimore, and others donate blood on April 27 the first of a three-day blood drive at the Union Collective organized by cancer survivor Brina Furman. She has organized several local blood drives since COVID-19 broke out by securing venues, coordinating with the Red Cross, promoting them through social media and signing up hundreds of donors. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Her efforts follow the cancellation of thousands of blood drives nationwide as COVID-19 spread and concerns about congregating in groups mounted. But Furman, a melanoma survivor, understands how far every drop can go.

Each pint of blood given can save up to three lives, according to the Red Cross, and the need for it is constant for cancer patients, trauma victims and those with chronic illnesses who require regular transfusions. But only about 3% of eligible people donate blood yearly, the organization notes.

The Red Cross reports that though its immediate needs for blood have been met, able-bodied donors are encouraged to schedule and keep appointments so that the supply remains stable throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

“The donations they were expecting went out the door,” Furman said. “There are existing drives at hospitals, but people don’t want to go to a hospital right now.”

So, Furman thought, why not bring the blood drives to the people? As she’s apt to do, she began planning.

Her friend, Nicholas Johnson, offered up his Su Casa Furniture shops in Fells Point and Ellicott City for April, May and June drives. Union Craft Brewing hosted three drives at its building in Hampden.

Cancer survivor Brina Furman has organized several local blood drives since COVID-19 broke out by securing venues, coordinating with the Red Cross, promoting them through social media and signing up hundreds of donors. Hero of the week Brian Furman helps check in donors at the Union Collective.
Cancer survivor Brina Furman has organized several local blood drives since COVID-19 broke out by securing venues, coordinating with the Red Cross, promoting them through social media and signing up hundreds of donors. Hero of the week Brian Furman helps check in donors at the Union Collective.(Kenneth K. Lam)

Furman, 28, procures the event sites but also corrals blood donors in coordination with the regional Red Cross branch. Through flyers, emails and social media posts, she has motivated more than 500 people to sign up to give blood so far, with about 437 of them qualifying to donate.

“We’ve had to turn people away,” she said, adding that the state’s social distancing regulations require each donor to make an appointment, wear a mask and be screened for signs of COVID-19, such as fever.

Meighan Sweeney, a Baltimore real estate agent who donated blood at a Fells Point drive, said it felt powerful to contribute to the fight against the pandemic in one of the few ways she still can.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do if you’re not a doctor,” said Sweeney, a first-time Red Cross blood donor. “It feels good to take back a little bit of control during a tough time.”

As most of the world retreats to their homes and isolates from view, Furman said it’s not part of her nature to sit back.

“Logistics is what I do,” she said. “Events aren’t rocket science; it’s just being able to juggle 16 different balls at the same time.”

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