When the St. James community bands together to volunteer, they do it by the gallon.

When the St. James community bands together to volunteer, they do it by the gallon.

For the 13th straight year on Thanksgiving, the American Red Cross received a strong turnout from the St. James community during their Thanksgiving Day Blood Drive at the Saint James’ Armory. In total, 172 pints of blood were donated which surpassed the set goal.

“This community has always stepped up when we’ve needed blood,” said Debbie Anderson, Supervisor at the Red Cross of Southern Minnesota. “The fact that this is the only blood drive happening in the state speaks to the commitment of this community.”

For some, it’s a civic duty, for some it was their first time, but for St. James community it’s a tradition. The tradition runs deeper than the donors, it also extends to the volunteers and staff. Courtesy of Anderson,  Every year a Thanksgiving meal is prepared by Debbie for all volunteers and staff — Andersons and otherwise. All four of her children have helped out through the years, along with other family members.

Through its first 12 years, the annual Turkey Day drive has brought in approximately 2,500 pints of blood. A blood drive on Thanksgiving is  timely, as the holiday season is often the most crucial time for blood donation for blood centers nationwide.  Blood centers see a downturn in donations in early winter and summer stages,

While blood centers are always in need of blood, during the holiday season blood centers are roughly 25 percent underdrawn.

“We experience ‘droughts’ during the beginning of fall and summer and most holidays,” said Mary Purcel, Director at BioMedical Services. “However, St. James has always answered the call to donate as much as they can on Thanksgiving."

One community member who answered the call was Jane Reiderer. Reiderer received a pin for a lifetime donation of 14 gallons of blood on Thursday and has regularly been giving blood bi-monthly since she was a 17-year-old.  

“I feel it’s my duty to give as much as I can to the people who need it,” said Reiderer.

In past years, the event was held at the St. James V.F.W. Post, but after a large turnout, the decision was made to move to the National Guard Armory.

“It’s not just the number of people that donate, it’s the enthusiasm with which they do it,” said Purcel.

Diane Dannen knows full well how that enthusiasm happens. For seven years as the Coordinator of Volunteers, she’s seen a yearly uptick of volunteers for the drive.

“They are an excellent group, who feel the call from our Lord and Savior to reciprocate the act of his sacrifice,” said Dannen. “It’s the nature of our community to give to others.”

Often times, families have taken the task to donate together either in remembranceof a family member or in the spirit of donating. The Stenzel Family, Pat & Colleen, and daughters Nicky, Sam, and Heidi all who donated in honor of Connie Edgerton. Edgerton recently was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Blood donors helped and continue to help with her bi- and tri-weekly blood and platelet transfusions.

“There’s a purpose for those who come to this drive,” said Rob, a phlebotomist who has worked the event for two consecutive years. “This drive means so much to so many people, and it’s been such a strong tradition here on St. James.”