One hundred and sixty Redwood Falls blood drives ago, Laura Kohler volunteered to be the new Red Cross Bloodmobile coordinator for the area drives.
Since blood drives happen eight times a year – to spare readers doing the math – 160 blood drives equals  20 years.
“I know it was 20 years, because I was pregnant and coming back from a doctor’s appointment when they asked me to be coordinator, and my son is going to be 20 this year,” Kohler said with a laugh.
Kohler had been volunteering at area drives for another five years before supervising them.
“I was a blood donor and wanted to get involved more,” she said. “Deb Schramm was the coordinator then, and when she retired I thought about it.”
“The best part of being coordinator is at the blood drives, when it looks like I’m not doing much,” she added. “I get to wander around chatting with the donors, because most of the work has been done by that point.”
Each blood drive takes up to 50 local volunteers, what with callers to line up and schedule the donors, canteen workers and those who set up and take down the tables afterward.
After 20 years and about 160 blood drives, Kohler is ready to step aside. She and other local Red Cross volunteers are looking for someone willing to step in and became the new coordinator.
The next blood drive is set for Jan. 9-10; Kohler’s last will be the one following that, April 10-11.
“I’m hoping I can train the next person in during the next two blood drives,” she said. “Whoever it is needs to be somewhat computer literate since scheduling is online now. We need to get the word out; somebody’s out there who’s going to do a wonderful job.
“I have a support staff willing to continue – a calling coordinator, canteen supervisor and volunteer recruiter, who are all willing to continue in their roles.”
What is the main quality a blood drive coordinator needs?
“Patience,” Kohler said. “It’s such a fluid thing. You’d like things to always fall into place, but it just doesn’t happen that way. You’re dealing with volunteers, and they’re making time out of their day to help. So you have to make adjustments.”
Although she is stepping down as coordinator, Kohler still plans to volunteer and donate.
“I’m a Christian, and that’s at the heart of anything I do,” Kohler said. “It’s part of public service, and blood donating is a pretty basic need. Everyone is going to know someone who has needed blood.”
One of the frustrations of blood drives is the constant need for new supplies, while fewer than 10 percent of the population actually donates blood.
“I think some people just have a phobia about needles,” she said, “but if you need blood, would you tell the doctor to not give you blood just because of the needle?”