Chris Marshall first gave blood to help a poster child five years ago. Now she donates at least once a year, and more often when possible.
"I saw that picture of a little girl who needed blood, and I knew I had to do something," said Marshall, office manager for the Carroll County roads department. "It takes a little nerve, especially if you don't like needles, but the Red Cross does a good job. I try to encourage co-workers to donate, too."
Marshall was one of about 80 people, many of whom were county employees, who gave a pint of blood in a two-day drive sponsored by the American Red Cross and Carroll County government. In all, nearly 100 people offered to donate during the drive, which began Wednesday at the County Office Building in Westminster. Screening for age, health and various other factors eliminated 19 of the potential donors.
At the county maintenance center in Westminster yesterday, 38 donors, 10 of whom were unscheduled walk-ins, participated in the drive. Several said word of a desperate need motivated them.
"I know there is a critical shortage, and I wanted to help out," said Bob Farinholt, a county service manager who donates at least twice a year.
Donations usually fall off during the holiday season and rebound in early January, but that resurgence did not happen this year, said Tracy Laubach, director of marketing and communications for the Red Cross. Reasons are as varied as illnesses, the weather and apathy.
"It is important for people to remember there is a constant, daily need," Laubach said. "We strive for 1,300 pints a day. We supply more than 80 hospitals and 10 trauma centers. If donations fall off for even one day, it shows."
The Maryland Red Cross region, the fifth-largest of 36 in the country, includes some of the top medical facilities in the nation, hospitals that require a steady supply of blood, she said. Several hospitals have had to cancel or postpone surgeries because of the shortages, she said.
"This is an unsafe position for us to be in," Laubach said. "We are starting to get back to where we need to be, but we are not there yet."
The process of donating takes about an hour. After that, most people can comfortably return to work.
Ray Linscomb has been a blood donor for nearly 20 years, since he was a high school senior. The county facilities worker signs up for the semi-annual drives that Carroll's government organizes.
"A lot of people need blood," he said.
Co-worker Barry Friedman has been a donor for nearly 30 years and is following a family tradition started by his father.
"You never know if you will need blood yourself or if a family member might need it," Friedman said. "Right now there are a lot of sick people, a lot of accidents and other critical stuff. It takes its toll on the supply."
Another regular donor, Lynn McDonald, deputy director of the county's human resources, said, "This is just something I feel people should do as long as they are able."
For information on other opportunities to donate blood, call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.