Blood Donor Clinic Volunteer

Insider Info

At the age of 90, one blood donor clinic volunteer shows up every Thursday to serve food and drinks to blood donors. She's been volunteering there for more than 30 years and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

"She's so spry. She remembers donors' names -- even what they take in their tea or coffee, what kind of treat is their favorite," says Dorothy Olsonberg. Olsonberg is the clinic's coordinator of volunteer services.

Blood donor clinic volunteers greet people who come to the clinic to donate blood. They register the donors and answer their questions. After the blood is taken, donors rest, and volunteers serve them refreshments -- tea and coffee, juice, cookies or soup.

Volunteers also monitor donors for negative reactions, such as lightheadedness. Nurses are on hand to deal with any medical emergencies, though emergencies are rare. Then as donors are leaving, volunteers thank them for their donation and remind them to book their next appointment.

"Our age range is from 14 to 90," says Olsonberg of her volunteers. "So during the day we get mostly retired or semi-retired people. After school we get all the after-school kids. And in the evening we get young adults.

"In our organization, [volunteers are] crucial," she adds. "It's absolutely necessary. On average, we rely on 25 to 30 volunteers a day here at our center. ... It's hard to believe how much we depend on them."

Did You Know?

  • One blood donation can help save three people's lives.
  • Blood is transferred to people following accidents, during surgery, or for cancer treatments, burn therapy or blood-related diseases.
  • Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.
  • Roughly one pint of blood is taken during a donation. The average adult has 10.5 pints of blood in the body.
  • A healthy donor can give blood every 56 days.
  • Donors must be 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.

Matthew Brosseau first learned about blood donations when a blood services organization set up a mobile clinic at his high school. After that, he became a regular volunteer. He's also a blood donor.

"I decided it's something I can easily do to save lives and, you know, make a difference," he says.

Brosseau's volunteer hours vary from week to week. He might work a three-hour shift after school, or come in for four hours on weekends. He helps the staff set up for afternoon clinics. He offers donors drinks and snacks after they've given blood. And he keeps an eye on the donors to make sure they're feeling all right.

Most of the time, it's pretty run-of-the-mill. But one day, he was talking to a woman who had just donated blood and she collapsed right in front of him. He called for the nurses, and while they tended to the woman, Brosseau occupied her children with coloring pages and reassured them that their mother would be fine.

"Whoa, that was interesting," he says. "Usually that doesn't happen. Usually it's just kind of low-key."

Brosseau plans to become a flight attendant. He believes his work at the clinic is great training. He's learning how to deal with people, as well as emergencies. But besides the valuable skills he's gaining, he just plain enjoys volunteering.

"It gives me a sense of pride in that what I'm doing actually does help save lives because if there weren't volunteers there, a lot of donors wouldn't come and do what they do."

After seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Debra Gilbert wanted to do something to help. She decided to volunteer at a blood donor clinic. A volunteer with the American Red Cross in Ohio, Gilbert registers new donors and serves refreshments. She also trains new volunteers.

"We take [the volunteers] through their task management -- what they'll actually do when they get to a mobile or fixed site," she says. "So that part is pretty much step by step, taking them through the registration process, how they have to fill out the forms, and then what to watch for."

The training also helps new volunteers understand what the American Red Cross and blood services is all about. It explains the organization's code of ethics, and the expectations of volunteers.

A retiree, Gilbert volunteers twice a week at the blood drives. "I like meeting the people," she says. "Donors are very special people because they're giving of themselves totally. To me, I'm impressed with people that will give their own blood -- part of their life -- to help save other people's lives."

Sometimes donors are nervous about the needles. Or, they're just not sure what to expect. So volunteer Hazel Griese calmly explains the procedure, and tries to relieve their fears.

For the past four years, since retiring, Griese has been volunteering weekly at a blood donor clinic.

"We have quite a few first-time donors," she says. "I just love waiting on these wonderful people. It gives me a great feeling. It's a two-way street, really, because what I'm doing makes me feel good. And me helping them seems to make them feel good and more comfortable."

Griese goes wherever she's needed. Sometimes she volunteers at the main clinic. Other times, she's sent to mobile clinics -- temporary locations set up around the city. At the mobile clinics, Griese sees about 100 donors a day. At the main clinic, as many as 180 donors a day roll up their sleeves for the cause.

"I like it when it's busy," she says. "Of course, I'm a people person. I just love talking to people."

How to Get Involved

Visit the website of America's Blood Centers or the American Red Cross to find your local blood donor clinic. Or, call 1-800-GIVELIFE for information about blood drives in your area. Volunteers must be at least 14 years of age.


America's Blood Centers

American Red Cross Blood Services


Information for Students
If you're too young to donate blood, f'ind other ways to get involved

Quick Facts and Figures About Blood
Learn more about blood from America's Blood Centers

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