Q&A: Eric Anderson
Calvary United Methodist Church has one of the area’s more successful blood drives for the American Red Cross. What is your secret?
A top way is to ensure donors have a positive experience. We try to minimize wait times and implement such basic things as a smile coming in the door or a simple “thank you” [that] go a long way toward earning repeat donors. We have loyal donors who have been giving for years and volunteers who have been supporting us as well. Mix that with many repeat faces among the American Red Cross staff, add in a dash of longtime friends, area business leaders, local politicians and a few new walk-in donors every time, and you’ve got a winning recipe.
What got you involved in the drive and how long have you been doing it?
I was a regular donor when the previous coordinator ran the Calvary drive. He suddenly moved away. At the time, it wasn’t necessarily a passion of mine, but it seemed like somebody should do it. We collected 29 units at the first drive I ran in 2008; we collected 93 units at one of our five drives last year. At our next one in May, we’ll hit a milestone of 2,500 units of blood collected, so I’m very proud of our donors. It certainly has evolved into a passion of mine. I’m now a member of the Red Cross board, Asbury Communities [the company I work for] grants me time off to pursue this, and when my own father took ill, blood transfusions helped extend his life. So it has given back to me as well.
What are some reasons donors give for donating blood?
For a lot of people, it’s because they just feel it’s a good thing to do. Some do it to be role models—I’ve seen parents convince their children by giving themselves. Others have had a health challenge or a loved one has needed blood, and they feel compelled to give back. A longtime donor once told me that his wife was told she had months to live because of her specific illness, and in his words, “The Red Cross and blood donors gave me five extra years with her, so I’ll always donate when I can.”
What steps have you taken to get people quickly through the process?
I work closely with the donors and the Red Cross to get as many people scheduled in advance as possible to ensure ideal staffing levels. The RapidPass check-in and donor app help save some additional time.
What are some of the myths associated with donating blood?
I’m too old to give blood. As long as you are healthy and well, and doctor’s permission is recommended, there’s no age limit on giving. We’ve even had a few donors successfully give regularly into their 90s.
I’m at risk of an infection or other illness from donating. Actually, giving blood is one of the safest processes out there. The process is sterile and all blood collected is tested in multiple ways to ensure its safety for recipients as well.
Giving blood limits what I can do afterward. Unless you’re planning on doing some sort of extreme fitness challenge the next day, donors typically can resume normal activities almost immediately, especially if they stay hydrated and eat properly.