Our View: Make it easier to donate blood

Our View: Make it easier to donate blood
(Photo/Sarah Taylor)

Act for Alexandria has an extremely effective system in place to both encourage and enable people to make donations to the array of nonprofits that operate in Alexandria. The organization is visible throughout the year. It is a community partner in efforts to improve the lives of poor and marginalized city residents and is excellent at educating city residents about local needs.

The city’s annual day of giving, Spring2ACTion, is April 27, but the giving website is accepting early donations at www. spring2action.org – and finding your favorite nonprofit on their website is easy. Last year, Spring2ACTion raised more than $2.5 million.

If only it were as easy to give blood in Alexandria as it is to donate to local nonprofits.

As our page 1 story, “A limited supply,” illustrates, blood donations are literally a matter of life and death. If someone has suffered significant blood loss through an accident or illness, they need an immediate blood infusion, or their life is at risk.

The Red Cross earlier this year announced that it was suffering from a national and regional blood shortage and urgently requested people to donate. But the sad fact is that this shortage may have been at least partly self-induced, as the Red Cross closed its only ongoing donation site in Alexandria last September.

That donation location, at 123. N. Alfred St., was the last remaining consistent site where residents could donate blood on a regular basis in Alexandria. The Red Cross gave an unsatisfactory explanation for its closure, saying in a statement to the Times that the location became “oversized for our needs.”

People, and businesses, downsize all the time as their needs change. The need for a regular donation site in Alexandria has not changed. If 123 N. Alfred was too large, the Red Cross should find another, smaller location somewhere in the city.

We also see no reason why Inova Alexandria Hospital can’t fill this void by providing an ongoing location in Alexandria where residents or city workers can easily donate blood. Driving to Annandale, Sterling or Centreville – Inova’s current brickand-mortar donation locations – is simply not feasible for most people.

Fixed donation sites have long been supplemented by mobile blood drives, and these do still operate frequently in Alexandria on a pop-up basis. But pop-ups don’t facilitate ongoing donations from people like Rod Kukro and Sarah Taylor, who try to donate blood on a regular basis.

Kevin Giambi, marketing manager for Inova’s blood donor services, told us that Inova has had to become more engaged in educating people about the value of donating blood, as Inova needs 240 blood donations per day to meet needs in Northern Virginia and beyond.

Education is helpful, but what would really be beneficial is a local site where residents of Alexandria could easily donate blood. Driving all the way to Woodburn Medical Park in Annandale by Fairfax Hospital, the closest of the three Inova sites, is just too far.

Alexandrians are famous for our generosity, and we frequently rank high on philanthropic lists that track giving. Act for Alexandria has figured out how to translate that generosity into donations through effective education and communication – and by making it easy for people to give. The Red Cross and Inova need to do the same.