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TCC Red Cross center collects nearly 600 pints of blood

Headline Photo

Tucsonan Meg Biehl donates a pint of blood at the Tucson Convention Center yesterday afternoon after a four-hour wait. The doors to the TCC were locked around 4 p.m. in order to accommodate the dozens of people already waiting to donate blood.

By Michelle McCollum

Friday September 14, 2001

Volunteers overwhelmed by crowd of Tucsonans willing to donate

Nearly 600 pints of blood were collected yesterday during the second day of the Red Cross' blood drive, officials said.

The drive opened Wednesday at the Tucson Convention Center after officials at Red Cross centers around Tucson decided the influx of donors sparked by Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. could not be all be handled at individual locations.

"The response has been staggering," said Richard White, executive director of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the Red Cross. "People were lined up at TCC when we opened up this morning (at 8 a.m.), and the staff stopped accepting people at four this afternoon."

The Red Cross began to turn people away after the staff realized that if they continued to let people into the center they wouldn't go home until the early morning.

"We were here until one o'clock last night," said Soky Peru, a donor services recruiting staff member. "And tonight it looks like we'll be here until 11. I never expected this from the community. It's just incredible to see everybody here waiting for hours - we're talking waiting for up to six hours."

Peru said that at any time during the day, more than 200 people could have been waiting to donate blood. Among those were UA students who just wanted to offer some local help for a national crisis.

"I'm here cause I want to help out," said Pat Murphy, a mechanical engineering freshman. "I donated a couple bucks to Red Cross on campus earlier, but I wanted to do something more. (Blood donation) is the next best thing to going (to New York) and digging stuff up."

Murphy, who had been waiting since noon with mechanical engineering freshman Greg DeMeritt, brought homework to pass the long hours before it was their turn to donate.

"It's worth the wait," DeMeritt said. "And there's lots of ways of helping out. This is just our way of doing it."

To help students do their part, Parking and Transportation Services commissioned one of their spare vans to shuttle students back and forth from Old Main to the TCC.

"We're here to provide a service," said Gary Thomson, associate director of Parking and Transportation Services. "Not just collect fines and give citations. We're helping students with the blood drive because when you get in an emergency, we need to pull together and work together. It's not just need of the community, but also need of the nation."

The shuttle service began yesterday and will continue through today, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m., though the time may be extended to 9 p.m. if students express the need. "TCC Blood Drive Shuttle" is written on the front and sides of the transport.

Many were impressed by UA students' commitment to the community, said Red Cross volunteer Lita Speakman.

"One of the graduate students working next to me was an optical engineer," Speakman said. "He was plotting a graph of how long we were going to be here with so many people waiting. Lots of girls came in with their books and did homework. There were probably as many young people as community members."

White said the need for blood in New York has almost been reached though the sparse number of survivors is diminishing the need for blood. The blood donated is helping with the national blood reserve, which has been dangerously low.

The Red Cross has so much blood, White said, that this will be the first time they actually freeze it because they don't need it right away.

Even though their blood may not go directly to New York, students aren't deterred from "doing their part."

"It's important that we do our part," said Clayton Lawrie, an interdisciplinary studies senior. "I got a pint to spare, so why not give it?"

"No matter if it gets there or not, it seems the right thing to do, the moral thing to do," said psychology sophomore Michelle Bucholtz. "At least they'll use it for someone who needs it."

The blood drive will be open tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will open again Monday. All regular blood donation sites will open again on Tuesday.

Peru advised students to call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE before going to any donor site, to make sure they are eligible to give blood. Piercings, tattoos, recent trips to the UK and pregnancies may prohibit donation.


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