Area church to host blood drive, effort against pandemic
NILES — Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker, of Niles church Michiana Christian Embassy, said he was praying one night and a thought kept going through his head.
The thought has led to Michiana Christian Embassy co-sponsoring a blood drive with Lest We Forget – Southwest Michigan, hosting it at the church’s location at 1922 E. Main St in Niles, with Versiti Blood Center of Michigan. The drive will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22.
“The idea kept going through my head on putting people on the offensive [against COVID-19],” Whittaker said.
The idea came to Whittaker before Veterans Day, and he called Versiti Blood Center of Michigan Representative Kathy Ramirez to see what he could organize.
“She came down to see the entrances and exits, different stations for sanitizing and spacing,” Whittaker said, of the church’s interior layout. “She picked a spot, and we organized the volunteers, and we were off and running.”
Whittaker said he was inspired by Veterans Day, and the veterans group Lest We Forget, to put together a “roll up your sleeves and fight” plan for the blood drive. He likened the fight against the COVID-19 virus to that of a war.
“As in past American wars, people have held rubber and scrap metal drives to help the allies beat Hitler, Mussolini and more,” Whittaker said. “This effort will also put the fight back in the Niles and surrounding communities in these challenging days.”
Ramirez said there has been a shortage of blood.
“We are 60,000 units lower since COVID-19 hit,” she said. “We are not able to go into our high schools or local businesses, since people are working from home. So, we are relying on our communities and churches right now.”
She said Versiti Blood Center of Michigan is the sole blood provider for Michigan hospitals, including Spectrum Health Lakeland.
“If someone donates, it will stay local,” she said.
Donations are subject to a disease panel, including a COVID-19 antibody test.
“It isn’t to tell them if they actually have COVID-19,” Ramirez said. “It will let them know if they have been exposed, or had it in the past, and developed the antibody for the virus.”
Ramirez said the drive may be able to take plasma donations for those with the antibodies present, but there are extra steps involved in the process.
“The donor would have to pass pre-qualification,” Ramirez said. Some pre-qualifications include having two positive antibody tests, or a positive COVID-19 test from a physician.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, and not wanting to overcrowd the location, Ramirez recommended individuals interested in donating blood to find the blood drive on Versiti.org, or call (866) 642-5663 to schedule an appointment. The drive is looking to schedule donors, to allow for more spacing and increased sanitizing measures.
Each donor will receive a $10 electronic gift card for their donation, with a list of area businesses it can be redeemed at.
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