A better donor experience: Northern California Community Blood Bank is raising funds for a new bloodmobile

Pictured in front of a large blood drop that will keep track of bloodmobile donations are, from left, Northern California Community Blood Bank Director of Donor Services Tiffany Armstrong, CEO Kate Witthaus and Director of Donor Resources John Gullam. The blood bank is located at 2524 Harrison Ave. in Eureka. (Heather Shelton — The Times-Standard)
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There are several ways to give the gift of life this holiday season through the Northern California Community Blood Bank.

Blood donations are needed now and year round to help meet the needs of patients in Humboldt and Del Norte counties — be it whole blood, double red cell, platelet or plasma. Blood donations can be given at the blood bank itself, at 2524 Harrison Ave., Eureka, or on board a bloodmobile.

“There’s simply no medical technology that replaces blood, and we’re seeing across the country a general decline in the number of people who are willing to donate and I think there’s a lot of different reasons for that, but part of it is just awareness,” said Northern California Community Blood Bank CEO Kate Witthaus.

“There are so many causes that people want to give to, (and) blood donations still need to be one of them,” Witthaus said. “If we reach a point where we can’t serve all of the patients who need blood, then it’ll become critical really, really quickly. In our community, we have a really giving community and we’re able to serve our local needs, but it’s a challenge every day.”

To better help the community, the blood bank recently launched a fundraising campaign so it can replace one of its three bloodmobiles with a new, specially designed vehicle.

“Normally, we prefer to ask the public for blood donations, not financial donations, so this will be our first fundraising appeal in many years,” said Tiffany Armstrong, director of donor services at the blood bank.

The oldest and largest of the blood bank’s bloodmobiles is 17 years old now and has been driven some 184,000 miles over and around Humboldt and Del Norte counties’ varied terrain.

“It’s on its last legs,” Witthaus said. “We put a lot of money into maintenance and repairs at this point and California emissions laws are changing, so starting in just a few months, we’re not going to be able to drive it more than 1,000 miles a year, which is not sustainable for us because we take it to Crescent City and Garberville and everywhere in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.”

She added: “We’re ready to replace it. We’ve picked out a new bloodmobile. It’s nicer, it’ll have more of an open feel, it’ll be more environmentally friendly — and it’s just time for it.

“It’s a really big expense,” Witthaus said. “We do have some savings that we’re going to put towards it, but of the $350,000 cost, we’re trying to fund raise $100,000 for it. … We’re trying a couple of different things. We’re applying for a number of different grants. We’re going to our service clubs … and then we’re also doing direct public outreach.”

Bloodmobiles are a vital part of blood collections. According to Armstrong, two-thirds of donations happen on a mobile unit and most people give their very first pint of blood on a bloodmobile. Mobiles travel all over Humboldt and Del Norte counties, she said, allowing the blood bank to reach people who might not donate otherwise.

“We’re designing this bus to … be able to take it to Crescent City again. … The current bus is not really built to go over those hills,” Armstrong said.

The two smaller bloodmobiles will continue to be used as usual.

“The little one squeezes onto the quad at HSU,” Armstrong said. “… We do platelet collections on a mobile, the middle-sized one. We go to Crescent City every week, Fortuna once a week, twice a week sometimes, so that bus is vital to getting platelets out to the community. They each have their little niche, but the big bus is kind of lacking. … We need a big bus in Crescent City. We need a big bus to be able to go to Garberville.”

The 17-year-old Northern California Community Blood Bank bloodmobile is pictured near the Humboldt County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon. This bloodmobile will be retired soon and replaced with a brand new bloodmobile. Funds are currently being raised to purchase the new vehicle. (Heather Shelton — The Times-Standard)

The complete bloodmobile schedule is available on the Northern California Community Blood Bank website, www.nccbb.net. This coming week, bloodmobiles, for instance, will be in Garberville, Eureka, Arcata, McKinleyville and Crescent City. The blood bank in Eureka is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. No appointment is necessary for whole blood donations; other donations do need appointments. To make an appointment, call 707-443-8004.

“We try to make it easy,” Armstrong said. “We’re open Saturdays again … and Wednesday nights we’re here until 7 p.m. and we feed you and we’ll keep the kids … entertained. It’s Family Night. … There are lots of hours and times and the mobiles are everywhere. It’s just a matter of awareness. I know people mean well and they want to donate. I really believe that.”

To find out more about giving blood, go to www.nccbb.net or call 707-443-8004. To make a donation toward the new bloodmobile, go to bloodmobile2020.org, stop by the blood bank at 2524 Harrison Ave., or call the blood bank phone number above.

 

 

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