The American Red Cross held a blood drive in St. James on Thanksgiving, and--in keeping with the holiday theme--each presenting donor received a pumpkin pie. Conducted at the National Guard Armory Thursday morning, participants ranged from first-time donators to regular, longtime givers. In addition to the pies, they also received a tee-shirt courtesy of the Red Cross. This is the ninth year of the event, and Supervisor Deb Anderson--who was instrumental in launching the Thanksgiving drive--said it's now become a tradition for many families. “It's a family thing, and they come from all over, not just St. James,” she said of the donors. “It's a really feel-good day.” She said the drive began out of a need. Over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, blood donations plummet, but the need for blood never takes a holiday--it's constant. As Mary Purcel, director of donor recruitment for the Red Cross, explained, “Blood donation is a high priority for a lot of people, but people are busy this weekend, and patients are still in beds needing blood.” O positive and negative are the most universal types, but all types are needed, said Purcel, who wore her red cross earings for the event. “We're looking right now for AB donors, because there aren't many of them, and they are donors for universal plasma.” Anderson said spending time at the blood drive on a holiday doesn't bother her in the slightest for two reasons. First, as a nurse, she's used to working holidays. Secondly, her family lives in town, so she doesn't need to travel anywhere. “There's a lot to be thankful for, giving the gift of life,” she said. “This is the only community draw in the state today.” Purcel, who has spent 21 years with the Red Cross, said she's highly impressed by the effort in St. James. “When we tell people from the Red Cross that we have a drive this big on Thanksgiving, they're astounded,” she said. “This could very well be the biggest Thanksgiving blood drive in the country.” Kat Barrett of St. James said this was her first time donating in the Thanksgiving drive, but she's been donating blood for years. After her mother, Donna, needed blood transfusions during a hospital stay a few years ago, Kat began donating on a more consistent basis. “I do it for the cause, and you get a free pie--so many perks,” she said with a smile. Sarah Flake gives blood every two or three months, and it's her third time giving in this particular blood drive. She lives near Minneapolis, but relatives draw her to St. James for the holiday weekend. “My mom always gave blood when we were kids, so I'm following her example,” said Flake, who has A positive blood. Flake's cousin, Sam Thompson, joined her at the armory, but she was donating for the first time. “Our family has done this for awhile, so I thought I'd jump in,” said Thompson, who lives in St. James. “I'm not nervous at all, I'm good, I'm real good.” Transitioning from a first-timer to a veteran, St. James resident Linda Schultze has been giving blood for decades, and she's been a regular donor for three years. “I give because O negative is rare, and they need it all the time,” she explained. “It makes me feel good to give, and I know I'm saving someone's life.” Monitoring Schultze as she gave was Liz Strauser, who was in her third year working this event for the Red Cross. “It's a lot of fun, because you have lots of families,” Strauser said. “I like working with all the donors and meeting a lot of people.” “I really do get to know people,” she continued. “You're helping people out, and it's a job with a good cause.” Strauser explained that some people were “doubles” donors, while others were “singles” givers. The process for singles to give is about 10 minutes, and they're giving whole blood, she said. All blood types are welcome to give whole blood. “Doubles are two draws, and we take two units of only red cells, giving them back their platelets and plasma,” she said. “It's 45 minutes on the table for doubles, and we only take (types) O, A negative, and B negative for doubles.” Like Schultze, Lance Mikkelson was a doubles donor, and he's given at nearly every incarnation of this holiday blood drive. He lives near Lasalle, and he's been donating blood since the mid-70s. “I thought it was a good thing to do for people who need it, and it's the least I can do,” said Mikkelson, who has O negative blood. “I really think this is a good deal, and it's an enjoyable day.” Over in the singles section, some givers were in a reclined position, while others were flat on their backs. All maiden-donors must be in a completely horizontal position, per policy, because the blood flows more slowly, making the giver feel better. For those who have donated before, position is a personal choice. Cheryl Anderson was giving blood after a long hiatus; her first time was back in the 1970s. Her husband, Mike, is a member of the St. James Fire Department, and the fire department has an annual competition with the ambulance crew over who can donate the most units. In the first year of the contest, the fire department lost, and they were looking to even the score this year. The loser has to provide a meal to the winning team. “We decided to make (donating on Thanksgiving) a new tradition,” she said. “We also have lots of grandkids, so you never know when (one of them) might need blood.” She has AB negative blood, a rare type, but her husband didn't even know his blood type, because he had never donated blood prior to this event. “There's a little first-time nervousness,” he said. “The competition (with the ambulance crew) is a little incentive, though.” Jenna Helget, a St. James native and alumna of St. James High School who now resides in Hanska, joined Anderson and Thompson in breaking their blood-giving maidens Thursday. “My mom, Ruth, gives blood, and she recruited me,” she said. “It helps people.” Despite her fear of needles, she said the donating “went better than expected,” and she could see herself giving again in the future. All the blood collected Thursday went to Mankato, and then to St. Paul. It's processed in the capital before it goes out to individual blood banks. Anderson said there were 165 presenting donors, 15 deferred donors, and 32 double red donors Thursday. The Red Cross received 56 DRC units and 136 whole blood units for a total of 192 units. “We had another outstanding day,” she said. “(The staff) all had a wonderful time visiting with the donors who shared not only their blood but a little part of their Thanksgiving day.”