For decades, blood drives have been held in Redwood Falls. Those collections, held to aid the American Red Cross, operate like a well-oiled machine thanks to a solid group of volunteers.

Heather Smith of Redwood Falls has been learning all about that process over the past several months as the new Redwood Falls blood drive coordinator.

Smith, who grew up in Redwood Falls, started giving blood when she was in high school, and while she has no idea how much blood she has given over the years she recognizes the reality of the situation. 

According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood product.

This coming Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 15-16) the first of several 2018 blood drives is being held in Redwood Falls.

“There are blood drives held in Redwood Falls eight times each year,” said Smith.

What makes Redwood Falls a little more unique is that it is able to conduct collections two days in a row each time the Red Cross comes to town.

“The drives are always held on a Monday and Tuesday,” said Smith, adding they are held in January, April, July and October – two days in each month for the total of eight days of collecting.

Smith took on the role of blood drive coordinator in 2017 and was able to serve in that role for the October collection. She admitted there was a lot she had to learn in advance of that first collection, and heading into her second event she is still learning about what it takes to put on a successful blood drive.

The good news, she said, is that the work is not being done by just one person. There are three others who serve as leaders for various aspects of the blood drive, including LaMae Dahms, who helps coordinate the volunteers for the two-day collection, Pat Salmon, who coordinates the snacks and meal for the blood drive, and Judy Curtis, who works with the callers who get the word out to those who donate to help them schedule times to come in and give.

Smith said the work of setting up a blood drive begins about two months in advance, adding the dates are set by the Red Cross. Volunteers are given that much advanced warning to help prepare everything from stocking the canteen to ensuring there are enough people there to serve in the various roles needed to make the event run well.

For Smith, serving as the blood drive coordinator is a way to give back to the community she and her family call home, adding it also provides an opportunity for her to utilize some of her medical background.

“Life has changed enough for me that I felt I could take this on,” said Smith, adding she is very much enjoying the opportunity. “It has been a lot of fun for me. I am getting to know more people in the community. For me a blood drive is an exciting place to be. We are helping meet a need and providing a chance for people to feel good about doing something for others.”

Smith said there is always a need for more volunteers, and those who are interested in serving in some role with the local blood drives are encouraged to give her a call at (507) 430-4695.

The location for the blood drive changed for the October event, as they are now going to be held at the Evangelical Free Church in Redwood Falls. It is located along Bridge Street on the east side of the city. (Just look for the signs.)

Smith said she believes the new location will be ideal, as it is more visible.

In fact, she said during the October drive there was a walk-in who came simply because they saw the sign. Walk-ins are welcome, but Smith said those who do not schedule a specific appointment may have to wait a little longer.

She added the new Rapid Pass program also helps to move the process along, as people can go online and fill out the paperwork prior to coming. The blood drive is taking place each day from 12:30-6:30 p.m.

The need for blood is critical, said Smith, adding following the holidays the demand for blood increases, as the number of donors typically drops off during the Christmas season.

Smith also recruited her church youth group to go around the community putting up posters to publicize the event, adding the incentive of root beer floats afterward certainly helps.

While there are eight Redwood Falls blood drives that Smith coordinates, she said there are others that take place in the community.

One can typically give a traditional unit of blood every 56 days, she added.

To learn more about the upcoming blood drive collection event, contact Smith or visit the American Red Cross web site at redcrossblood.org.