Community members came together at the Parkside Activity Center (PAC) March 13 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. to participate in the first of the Wellman Rotary Club’s sponsored blood drive, run by the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC). 

Donor Relations Consultant Chris Ciasto supervises the drive, along with 150 blood drives across Washington, Louisa, Johnson, Muscatine, and Cedar counties. There are about 35 more consultants like Chris across Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri, where the MVRBC operates. 

 

Community members came together at the Parkside Activity Center (PAC) March 13 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. to participate in the first of the Wellman Rotary Club’s sponsored blood drive, run by the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC). 

Donor Relations Consultant Chris Ciasto supervises the drive, along with 150 blood drives across Washington, Louisa, Johnson, Muscatine, and Cedar counties. There are about 35 more consultants like Chris across Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri, where the MVRBC operates. 

The organization collects about 250,000 red blood cells per year for their efforts. 

 

In the Wellman area blood drives alone, the drive usually collects 70 to 75 units. Each unit collected helps up to four people in need of blood. 

“It’s more of the fear of the unknown,” Ciasto said. “Most people after they try it go ‘I don’t know why I was so worried about it.’” 

Betty Johnston was one of those people, but she donated for just her second time at the drive. 

“I think every time you’re a little bit nervous, but then once you get going it’s not bad,” she said. 

Johnston is now semi-retired and answered the call to donate after donating at one of the previous drives held at the PAC. 

“I feel like now I can do it and I think what kind of helps me overcome my fear is my faith in God,” she said. “With God, all things are possible.” 

Dave Ockenfels, on the other hand, reckons he’s donated three gallons since he started donating back in 1984. 

“I might need blood someday, so that’s why I think it’s a good idea to donate,” he said. 

Ciasto says they see about five to seven of the eligible population donate blood and most only donate once or twice a year. The five to seven percent of the population that donate is out of the 38 percent eligible, a figure that has seen a steep decline in recent years. 

 

“That number used to be 60 percent were eligible, but we do love pharmaceuticals in the U.S.,” Ciasto said. 

Those on medication for blood pressure, cholesterol, anti-depressants, and diabetics who take insulin can still donate, but other medications like blood thinners can effect a prospective donor’s chances. 

Other factors that can effect whether a patient can donate are travel, surgery, or getting a blood transfusion. 

The drive is part of a larger community rotation, which tries to host blood drives about once every 56 days to maximize the amount of donations that can be taken from the community. 

Kalona Optimists Club hosts a blood drive both in January and July, the Wellman Rotary Club hosts in March and September, IMS hosts in November, and Mid-Prairie hosts in May. The schools can earn grant dollars: $250 for every 20 units and $1 for every unit collected to go towards things like scholarships. 

If students donate 32 units of blood during their time, they can earn a red cord to wear at graduation. Donations can start at 16 years of age, with a parent’s permission.