ANNA — Santa Claus handed out candy canes and holiday hugs to blood donors Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church blood drive in Anna, and everyone deserved them. Donors all across Shelby County have been good girls and boys during a remarkable year of helping save lives.
A year ago Sacred Heart’s new Parish Activity Center was still getting finishing touches when the annual Knights of Columbus blood drive came up just two days before Christmas. It was the first event hosted in the new center. Community Blood Center had just nominated the entire Shelby County Donor Community for a national blood drive award.
In March CBC Shelby County Account Representative Kathy Pleiman traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the America’s Blood Centers Award of Excellence to Shelby County for “Most Productive Blood Drive” of 2014. By the time CBC presented the etched glass award to the Shelby County Commissioners, the county was well into another productive year of blood donations.
With two blood drives remaining before the end of 2015, Shelby County has hosted 116 blood drives with 7,539 donors and 6,474 blood donations. Sacred Heart donors earned their candy canes Tuesday by contributing 224 registrations and 206 donations for 106 percent of the collection goal, a better than 10 percent increase over last year’s KOC blood drive.
“Santa” Jim Goettemoeller was there as well to make his 48th lifetime donation, and continue the tradition of appearing in his well-traveled Santa suit, jingle bell harness, and sack filled with candy canes. It’s a role he’s been playing every December for 36 years.
“I just have a lot of fun,” Jim said. “It’s a way to give every year.” Another tradition is the ribbing that goes on between Santa and long-time KOC blood drive coordinator Tom Albers, who made his milestone 180th lifetime donation Tuesday. “I figure I should get to 200 in about three years,” Tom said. “That’s when I’ll hang it up (as coordinator) and switch places with Santa!” Jim’s reply was, “It’s a good thing I’ve got boots on, because it’s getting kind of deep in here!”
The KOC blood drive wouldn’t be the same without Santa, or without the volunteers from Sacred Heart Parish and Kathy Pleiman’s blood drive volunteer team. They served sloppy joe sandwiches from the Parish Center kitchen and handed out home-baked cookies in the Donor Café. A favorite treat was the Oreo ball cookies, shaped like snowmen with tiny signs that said, “Thanks for Giving the Gift of Life.”
“About once a year I come here,” said Coila Johns, a platelet donor from Houston who made her 64th lifetime donation Tuesday. “I haven’t seen Santa Claus donate before! I think it’s a good idea.”
The blood drive marked just 10 days until Christmas, and donors Nichole Meyer and Kim Osborne didn’t need a reminder. Both are teacher aids at Anna Middle School and High School. “The kids are ready for the break,” said Kim. “I think we all are!” Kim made her 19th lifetime donation and Nichole made her third. “This blood drive was my first time last year,” she said. “I’m a newbie definitely!”
Shelby County Commission Chairman Bob Guillozet is a regular platelet donor at the Sacred Heart blood drive. He made his 185 lifetime donation Tuesday, and reflected on the blood drive award from 2014 and another generous year of giving in Shelby County.
“This building was new, they opened it up for us,” he said. “We got to see it before most of the parish. People do like to donate here. That’s good. It gets that Christmas spirit in.”
Learn more at www.GivingBlood.org