More Than Just Blood-Experiences at a Blood Drive

On July 9th I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Six Flags Super Blood Drive at the Big E along with a fellow Youth Programs Intern, Sarah Braverman. Together, we decided to share our experiences from the drive.

Sarah Bessette: I had attended and seen a few blood drives before, but this one was very impressive. From the moment you step into the Better Living Center, a Red Cross Volunteer greets you with a smile, guides you through the process, and sends you to the next station. From the colored wrist bands, to the Looney Toon characters for each donation booth, the organization and flow of the event is incredible. The donors feel comfortable and welcomed.

Going to an event like that, you can’t help but want to give in some way. Whether it’s through actually giving blood, or sitting at the registration desk, each part of the event helps to change and save lives. It was motivating to see the people lining up to donate blood. As a volunteer you get to interact with so many of these people. Some have been giving for years, and others it’s their first time. Some are outgoing, and some hardly speak at all. One was in shock that people actually volunteer their time to help with the drive. Another had volunteered with the Red Cross before. Every donor is different, yet all unified under the same gratification that they helped to save a life. Knowing that is what makes my volunteer experience the most satisfying.

Sarah Braverman: The Big E hosted a Six Flags Super Blood Drive on July 9th, and what an experience it was! The Better Living Center was filled with Red Cross Volunteers and blood donors of all ages and all ready to donate, starting early in the morning to late at night. What I thought was most impressive was how the system was organized. A donor would walk in and be greeted by a Red Cross Volunteer and informed on our regulations and policies for donating blood. The donors were given a colored wrist band that matched a sign at each donation station with a Looney Toon character. Donors had the option to donate whole blood or just red blood cells. After a background check and their donation, each donor went to one of about eight refreshment station, relaxed and socialized with the many other donors.

I volunteered at the “Sylvester the Cat” station greeting people and recording who came in to donate. I had never seen so many donors all in one place at one time. While I was volunteering, I got to meet other volunteers and donors of various backgrounds. Everyone had a story to tell: what brought them to working for the Red Cross, what brought them there that day to donate, how long they have been volunteering or donating, the stories were never ending. What left the longest impact on me was to see all these people, no matter how hard life had been to them, taking the time out of their lives to give to someone they may never meet. Someone with stories they may never hear. Being surrounded by these good Samaritans revived my feelings of enthusiasm and optimism in the charity work I do. Every little thing you do that’s for the benefit of someone else is time well spent.

As you can see, there is so much more to a blood drive than just blood. Its about the donors you meet, the volunteer stories you hear, and the experiences made that create the difference.

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My Red Cross Story: An Intern’s Perspective

A little bit more than getting coffee for the executives, these posts will feature some of my experiences with the Youth Programs Department at the Pioneer Valley Chapter.

Before I begin, since this is my first post, let me introduce myself. My name is Sarah Bessette and I am a senior at Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, PA. I am studying Business Administration and have a passion for humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

During junior year, every college student faces the ultimate struggle of attempting to find their internship in order to complete their area of study. My experience was no different. I began my search in October of last year. I was determined to be different than the rest and lock down my internship before the mad dash at the end of the year. I went back and forth with various companies and got dragged around in between yesses, no’s, and maybe so’s. As the school year went on, nothing seemed to be working out. Take a guess when I finalized this internship I am in now…April. Don’t get me wrong, the best was certainly saved for last!

With all that being said, when I started the internship I had no idea what to expect. I had received information about my position before starting and was excited to begin, but I had little background knowledge about the Red Cross. I knew it was one of the largest global nonprofit organizations, and that it organized blood drives. As I’m discovering, unless you work or volunteer here, that’s the perception most people have. In my first day of volunteer training I learned that the Red Cross does so much more than that. Between blood drives, service to armed forces, international services, disaster relief, and health and safety education, the possibilities are endless.

As my internship have unfolded I have discovered that Youth Programs really has the best of all the worlds. How many departments get to work with each of the other five all at the same time and promote every single one of them? As my first volunteer experience with the Red Cross, it is the best way for me to really learn the heart of the organization. To witness the impact the Red Cross has in so many areas through these students clubs is a privilege. We get to encourage the next generation of leaders and advocates of the Red Cross. It’s truly a very rewarding experience that will last far beyond my contributions here.

Remebering the one-year anniversary of the Springfield tornadoes

Many homes were damaged from the tornadoes that struck parts of Western Massachusetts last year, specifically Springfield. Photo courtesy of Melissa Sieminski

Today is the official start of hurricane season and the one-year anniversary of the tornado outbreak in Western Massachusetts.  Many American Red Cross volunteers were dispatched to the scene. Today they are rembering their experience helping those touched by disaster.

From June 2-27, 2011, American Red Cross volunteer Melissa Sieminski was the Mass Care Chief for the operation at the Pioneer Valley Chapter, which included a total of seven American Red Cross shelters that had more than 5500 overnight stays, feeding operations at the shelters and mobile feeding using 11 Emergency Response Vehicle’s for a total of more than 26,500 meals and 134,000 snacks, bulk distribution of around 40,000 recovery items to the affected communities and family reunification.

“Believe it or not it was a great experience,” she said. “Even the day we had tornado warnings, the sky turned a sickly shade of green and we had to huddle in the hallways of our headquarters wondering if we were going to be the next disaster.”

The New England tornado outbreak occurred on June 1, 2011, in Massachusetts. About 19 communities reported tornado damage with the heaviest damage around Springfield, the third largest city in the state. Red Cross workers responded immediately, assisting area residents as well as the hundreds of emergency responders on the scene. Disaster teams opened shelters throughout the area and are providing food, drinks and emotional support.

In rememberance of the one-year anniversay, the American Red Cross wants people to be prepared – to build a kit, make a plan and be informed.

One of the first things to do when there is a threat of a Hurricane is to get information about the storm.  Listening to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).  Understanding the difference between a Hurricane watch versus a Hurricane warning can help you gauge how long until the storm is upon you. 

A few supplies should be stored in case. Stay prepared by putting together a go bag, including the following items:

  • Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)

Talk with members of your household and create an evacuation plan. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.   Continue reading

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