Red Cross program aims to replenish winter blood supply

By Lisa Burnett Published January 23, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Mackie Cruz of Saline County donates blood at the Red Cross donation center in Little Rock on Jan. 16.

The American Red Cross is doing what it can to keep its blood supply up in the winter months through a program called We Challenge U.

Marci Manley, program manager for communications in the Greater Ozark Blood Region at the American Red Cross, said the program is designed to replenish the blood supply during the winters.

“When colleges go on winter break, it removes that population of blood donors,” she said. “Up to 20 percent of our donations come from colleges, universities and high schools. This is a way for us to get them back into the groove of things.”

Manley said winter is a challenging time for the Red Cross.

“November through January, donations decline, and winter weather also impacts us,” she said. “We had hundreds of drives canceled due to the weather. It’s also difficult because of the flu.”

Ruby Johnson, chair of allied health at Ozarka College in Melbourne, said this drive is a way for some of her students to earn community-service hours.

“In our nursing program, we require so many hours of community service,” she said. “This is not only a way for our students to provide community service we require in the program; it’s very beneficial for someone they might not even know.”

Nursing students at Ozarka College will receive one hour of community service for donating blood at the school’s drive.

“If they can’t donate, the students will still get credit if they are able to assist the Red Cross by giving out snacks, or something along those lines,” Johnson said.

Manley said donating blood is quick and easy, and typically only takes about 10 minutes.

“We encourage people, as far as making sure the experience is as enjoyable as possible, to hydrate more than they normally do. That makes the blood flow easier,” she said. “Always eat a hearty meal before [donating blood].”

Johnson said potential donors are also advised to avoid eating fatty foods before donating blood.

“Eat something very nutritious and something that will stick with you, like peanut butter crackers,” she said. “Also, drink water. They are going to be taking volume out of your body, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids.”

Manley said that sometimes, potential donors are nervous about giving blood.

“Nobody likes walking in and getting stuck with a needle, but once they’ve gone through it, they describe it as a little stick, and then it’s over,” she said.

The American Red Cross currently has a desperate need for O positive and O negative blood types, as well as A negative and B negative, Manley said.

More information about the American Red Cross We Challenge U program is available at

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at

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