Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series featuring area volunteers in April, which is National Volunteer Month.
By Anna Jauhola
Blood drive volunteers are as vital as those who give and the blood collected.
Kittson County is full of volunteers who not only organize drives but also donate blood, which is needed daily throughout the region.
In the area, Hallock, Lancaster, Lake Bronson, Karlstad and Drayton currently hold regular events through Vitalant, formerly United Blood Services. Linda Boychuk started helping to organize the drives in Hallock in 2014 after two years of calling donors.
“I received a phone call one day (from Vernita Waller) wanting to know if I would mind calling donors for the blood drive,” Boychuk said. “She’d asked me on other things before, and I could never turn her down. And it’s continued ever since.”
That was 2012. In 2014, Boychuk began to help coordinate. Within a year, Waller became ill just before the October drive, and died not long afterward. Not only was it a stressful transition to suddenly take over, but Boychuk and many others had lost a good friend in Waller.
“That one in October was a little scary because it was the first time doing it alone,” Boychuk said. “But I’ve been doing it alone ever since. It’s kind of a routine thing for me now.”
But knowing the importance of the entire situation, everyone soldiered on and the Kittson Memorial Hospital Auxiliary still hosts four blood drives a year. The facility kitchen provides refreshments for donors, which current President Pam Taie delivers the day of the drive, Boychuk said.
However, volunteer numbers are declining.
Boychuk said they need people to call donors before the events and register them at the door. Callers contact donors four to six weeks ahead of a drive. Boychuk gets the list of names for each drive from the Vitalant office in Fargo and she distributes lists with names and numbers to her callers.
“Then we also call them back a day or two before the drive,” Boychuk said. “Sometimes we have a short number of donors for a drive and for others we have 100 or more.”
For the last eight years or so, callers have also been able to input donor information through a website, which helps cut time for organizers, especially the day of the drive. Some callers don’t use computers, so Boychuk takes that information and enters it herself.
People to register donors are also needed, especially during this time of extra restrictions due to COVID-19. Usually, two people register donors as they enter Grace Lutheran Church the day of a blood drive. But, due to COVID, Boychuk has had only one register at a time and she helped as needed. However, she always rotates the registers in two-hour shifts. They write down the donor’s name, take their temperature and record it, and make sure all their information is correct. Many donors come with their information filled out online and a register simply scans their barcode for the information.
Volunteers to give blood, of course, are always needed. While O-negative is the universal blood type and the most needed, anyone can give. You don’t need to know your blood type, Boychuk said, and there are fewer restrictions on who can give blood.
Visit www.vitalant.org to see if you are eligible.
Boychuk has seen the need for blood firsthand. She worked in lab and X-ray at Kittson Healthcare for years, and also witnessed the healing power of blood when her dad was going through cancer treatments.
“There’s just endless things now you may need a unit of blood for,” she said.
She’s hoping to see more young people get involved and help organize blood drives. Many of her regular volunteers are retired.
“It’s a gratifying job to sit there, knowing what a unit of blood can do for people,” Boychuk said. “It’s interesting to be out there and visit with people, to keep in contact with the public.”
Boychuk said she could easily use three to four more callers and registers each. She gives each caller a two-week window to get in touch with donors on their lists because sometimes they can’t be reached right away.
Anyone who is interested in helping or would like to know more, Boychuk would love a call – 218-843-2811. She’d also accept help in the form of a co-coordinator. The next blood drive in Hallock is on June 2 and 3.