SUNY Plattsburgh campus held their first blood drive in over a year and a half this past Oct. 19.
With restrictions directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a halt on blood donations, leading to a nationwide blood shortage.
Allison Swick-Duttine, the director of sorority and fraternity life and Project HELP director, coordinated with Adirondack Regional Blood Center to host the blood drive.
Project HELP is a volunteer organization that facilitates all types of volunteer work for students, from park cleanups to mentoring children. They hope to provide these opportunities while also strengthening the relationship between campus life and the greater Plattsburgh community.
“We would usually host four blood drives every year and then that had to stop. We want to try for one every semester now,” Swick-Duttine said.
All blood was donated to the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Blood Bank, the only one that worked with the campus and the largest in the area. It provides 95% of the blood to the CVPH network, and other hospitals in Elizabethtown, Malone, Massena, Saranac Lake and Glens Falls.
While she was disappointed to not be able to host as many, she said the room was full all day. Students and staff were not lacking in their willingness to donate. Blood can be donated again after eight weeks.
Plattsburgh student Kiersten Wilkinson had just finished donating. Looking pale where she was sitting off to the side, volunteer Alex Smith grabbed her an apple juice and crackers.
Despite her unsteadiness, Wilkinson was happy she was able to give back in some way. It was the second time she had ever donated, recalling the first time when her former boss needed a double lung transplant.
“I was able to see how it directly helped someone in my life,” Wilkinson said. “If you are able to, everyone should seriously consider donating. It takes maybe an hour out of your day. We all have an hour to give.”
Wilkinson noticed a lot of volunteers coming and going while she was getting her blood drawn. At a given moment, up to 10 students were standing or sitting against the wall, waiting for their turn.
Besides her side job of making sure students were OK before leaving the drive, Smith was the Project Help student volunteer coordinator. She was the one instructing the volunteers to line up, and the handful of personal information questions they had to fill out before donating.
Smith recognized the lack of events in the Plattsburgh area to give blood, knowing that in a time of a pandemic, individuals with other health concerns needed the public’s help more than ever.
“Most Greek organizations would hold a blood drive every semester,” Smith, a senior who remembers campus life before COVID-19, said. “Now we’ve decided to work together and put on a larger drive every semester.”
Looking forward to the success of this first blood drive in almost two years, the volunteers and coordinators all hope for good turnouts in the future.