132 local residents turned out to donate their time and blood for the New York Blood Center on Monday. The event was hosted by the Nanuet Senior High School and was the 32nd such occasion organized by Nanuet resident Mary O’Hara.
Event organizer O’Hara is currently a kindergarten teacher at George W. Miller Elementary School and began the drive after attending a school meeting years ago.
“I went to a PTA meeting and they said it would be nice way to get to get PTA membership up if they sign up, but I just thought is was a nice thing to do for all those people who need it. And the rewards are great because everyone who donates blood here, they save lives,” said O’Hara.
The drive is held during Thanksgiving week each year which highlights the message that it is about giving back to the community.
“It’s hard to get people these days, but we have the same people coming out who are loyal from the get-go, some people have been here since I’ve been," said O'Hara. "It’s a great way to give back.”
“It’s very important to give back something to the community," said Donor Betty Brady. "I always make the time to do it. And it’s right before Thanksgiving, so it’s the season.”
Donor and A. MacArthur Barr Middle School teacher Vincent Garrison was also glad to participate again this year.
“I’ve donated blood and platelets for 20 (years) consistently … whenever they tell me the date I put it on my calendar,” said Garrison. In addition to participating in the blood drive, Garrison sets a high bar for community participation as the organizer of an annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation event that contributes to finding cures for childhood cancers.
Although this year’s blood drive had no special theme, previous participants may remember that in years past the event has honored the memory of some of Nanuet’s most painful losses: Ryan and Chris Conklin.
“Last year we had over 180 people for Rich Conklin’s two sons, it was dedicated to them,” said O'Hara.
In operation since 1964, The New York Blood Center is an independent, non-profit blood center that utilizes a mix of volunteers and full time staff. Donor specialist and New York Blood Center employee Blanca Hernandez notes that in addition to helping those in need, working with the blood center has other benefits as well: “…when you work at the company they give you money to go back to school if you have time. It’s a good thing.”