While walking into a blood bank and facing the sharp point of a needle might be a scary and stressful feat for the average joe, Minnie Flanders, appreciation ambassador for LifeStream Blood Bank‘s La Quinta location, encourages the community to brave the doors of their local blood bank and come anyway, assuring us that a little pinch goes a long way in saving lives.
“People who give are happy people,” says Flanders, who has been a LifeStream volunteer — and donor — for eight years, assisting with recruitment for the national bone marrow donor program and caring for donors in the office canteen area for the final stages of the donation process.
Flanders moved to California in 1954 and, after spending time raising her family, decided to give back to her community by supporting charities and churches. “I feel you need to give your time,” she says, “so I volunteer [at LifeStream], and then I volunteer at the Joslyn Community Center as well.”
Upon first volunteering for LifeStream in May 2012, Flanders joined a team that, since 1951, has provided services to more than 80 Southern California hospitals and medical facilities and as a nonprofit organization has had to rely upon approximately 500 generous blood donors daily.
“You’re giving blood for humans to survive, for babies to live, for operations to be performed,” Flanders says. “Without people donating blood, we would not be able to do that.” She notes that donating blood or plasma is free. “It doesn’t cost you anything. We’re here to serve you so you can focus on giving.”
According to facts and statistics provided by LifeStream, one in seven people entering the hospital will need a blood transfusion. As well as needing all blood types, patients with type O negative are especially needed since only about 7% of U.S residents have this “universal” blood. “Most people feel good about donating,” says Flanders, whose own son has followed her example and now volunteers alongside his family at local food banks and school activities. “I tell them to bring their family or another donor with them and donate together. Every once in a while, we’ll have four members of a family come all at once; it’s a family affair.
“It’s a very simple process to donate, and if you pass the tests you are put in a chair to donate, which takes about seven minutes and then you relax in the canteen area for 15 minutes, where you receive healthy beverages and snacks. But if you try to leave early, I’m going to come after you in the parking lot,” she says jokingly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, LifeStream has been monitoring the situation closely and is committed to the safety of donors, patients, employers, volunteers, hospitals and the community.
For more information on how to donate, volunteer, and/or stay up to date with LifeStream during the pandemic, visit their website at lstream.org.
Marion Rodriguez is a freelance journalist and student based in Southern California. She currently writes about philanthropy and nonprofit charities. This is her third season writing for The Desert Sun.