ALBANY, Ga. -- What better gift to give than the gift of life?
This is a good time of year to give it too. Blood donations tend to decline during the holiday season -- which is prompting American Red Cross officials to make an appeal for people of all blood types to donate.
"Typically what happens is that we do see a decline," said Tracye Bryant, communications manager for the American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region. "Schools are on holiday break, so we are unable to get drives on the block -- and people are shopping and traveling, so they are not coming in for their appointments.
"We are encouraging (people of) all blood types to give."
Rebecca Barnes, who works as a donor recruitment representative with the donor center in Albany, echoed the call for all blood types -- but noted that there are certain types always needed. "The need for O negative and O positive is always out there," she said.
Holiday traveling has not been the only reason for missed donation appointments in Albany, Barnes said.
"Recent winter weather has caused cancellations for donation (appointments), so we didn't get the units we were counting on during that time," she said.
"Even though we try to plan, every year it is about the same. We have the same challenges every year."
Due to the donor center on Dawson Road having limited office hours during the holidays, officials are especially encouraging people to come in from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Friday, Dec/ 24 and Dec. 31, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 27 and from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 1.
"These are days when we will be needing more donations," Barnes said.
One blood donation can save up to three lives, whether it be the life of a sickle cell patient, a cancer patient or a burn victim -- which makes volunteer donorship all the more critical, officials say.
"Blood donations are needed every day," Bryant said. "We can't do what we do without volunteer donors. People don't realize the importance of giving blood until they need it."
In November, the local Red Cross held 18 blood drives and collected 843 units of blood. Blood can be donated every 56 days, and platelets can be given every two weeks. Most healthy people age 17 or older are eligible to donate.
For more information on how to give, or to make an appointment to donate, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.