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Giving blood and staying connected

Community Church hosted an American Red Cross blood drive on Monday at its Suffolk campus on Holland Road. People scheduled their appointments to give blood and help save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the first time that Poquoson resident John Barrick had given blood in about 15 years, he said at the Monday blood drive. Barrick simply wanted to do his part during this pandemic, and was inspired by the many health care workers who are still working tirelessly — including his daughter, who is an ER nurse in Virginia Beach, he said.

“It’s just something that I could do to help,” Barrick said.

Libby Holdstein, a Suffolk resident at the blood drive, said that she hadn’t given blood since 1992. But like so many other donors, she wanted to help save patients’ lives.

“When they’re critically ill, they might need a blood transfusion to help them,” Holdstein said, adding that it “feels good” to give blood to help those that need it.

Community Church will host another Red Cross blood drive on Tuesday at its Western Branch campus, 1935 Jolliff Road in Chesapeake, from noon to 5 p.m.

“If you can give blood, give blood,” said Senior Pastor Michael Brueseke. “We’re going to offer our buildings to do blood drives as often as the Red Cross needs us to, (in order) to make a difference.”

In a Monday email, Michelle Ellis Young, the executive director of the Coastal Virginia region of the American Red Cross, praised the many donors who have given blood and scheduled upcoming appointments in the past couple of weeks.

“While the American Red Cross currently has a sufficient blood supply to meet patient needs, we continue to encourage individuals to keep scheduled blood donation appointments and to schedule new blood donation appointments for the weeks ahead,” Young wrote.

While there’s still a need for blood, there’s an even greater need for platelet donations, which have only a five-day shelf life. The donation process for platelets is also more stringent, requiring a few hours per donation, as opposed to roughly 45 minutes for a whole blood donation, Young said in a phone interview Monday.

There’s also a greater demand for larger facilities to hold Red Cross blood drives. Typically, 800 square feet of space would be appropriate for one of these blood drives, according to Young, but with social distancing requirements, the Red Cross is looking for larger sites that are “well in excess” of the normal square footage.

The larger facilities help ensure the integrity of the process, in addition to the other precautions being taken by the Red Cross. Individuals have their temperatures taken before they enter the facility. Masks are worn by staff, in addition to gloves that are changed frequently. Hand sanitizer is made available throughout the facility, and equipment is routinely disinfected.

“We’re doing what we can to ensure that people feel safe and secure while they are in our facilities,” Young said.

The congregation of Community Church is working to address the needs of community members during the pandemic. Brueseke said that the church working with local partners to provide food to more than 100 people each week between the Suffolk and Western Branch campuses, in addition to other supplies.

“We’ve just really been trying to encourage people and help people, whether they’re part of our church today or not, just to be able to help our community,” Brueseke said.

They’re also sharing resources on their social media channels to help people stay connected. Brueseke said that it’s especially important right now that people strengthen the bonds of their personal relationships, and stay connected to one another while practicing social distancing and staying at home.

“It’s so important that we stay connected in relationships with people right now,” he said regarding resources that allow people to stay in touch while staying at home. “All those things that maybe are different than what we’re used to is what will keep us from isolating (ourselves) and feeling like we’re all alone, because we’re not alone in this. We’re together in this, even if we might be in our own homes.”

Go to the Community Church website at “community.church” to find out more about their resources.

To schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross, visit RedCrossBlood.org, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Donors can also complete a RapidPass to save up to 15 minutes at their blood donation. They can complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of the donation, from a mobile device or computer. Complete a RapidPass by following the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

For more up-to-date information on donor eligibility requirements, visit redcrossblood.org or call the donor and client support center at 1-866-236-3276.