Red Cross sets blood drives

ALBANY -- In addition to giving at the Albany Blood Donor Center on Dawson Road, there will be multiple opportunities elsewhere to give blood in the coming weeks.

Through April 11, there are 16 public blood drives planned in Albany, Dawson and Sylvester. There are also drives taking place in Fort Gaines, Doerun, Moultrie, Norman Park, Cordele, Cuthbert, Shellman and Americus through April 20.

For Albany, there will be drives starting Thursday and going through April 11. The venues will include places such as Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, the Dougherty County Public Works building on Habersham Road and Loyal Order of the Moose on Philema Road.

The blood drives in Dawson will take place on March 22-23. There will be three blood drives in Sylvester from March 7-21.

This comes as the blood donor center in Albany is preparing to close its doors in June. Officials had initially intended for it to close Dec. 31, but later moved the shuttering to June 30 -- a move officials attributed to challenges with blood and platelet inventory levels.

"The American Red Cross encourages individuals to continue to donate blood and platelets at the Albany blood donation center," said April Phillps, spokeswoman for the Southeast Blood Services Division, Tuesday. "We feel a strong commitment to our donors here and remain committed to providing ample blood donation opportunities in the Albany area through regular blood drives.

"And, we will continue to do so after the Albany blood donation center has closed."

Phillips said Red Cross may even increase the frequency of blood drives after June 30 to provide more opportunities to donate.

Announcement of the closure came following a summer in which the Red Cross said it has experienced one of the worst blood shortages in more than a decade. Collections were further disrupted in September by flooding, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and other severe weather throughout the country.

"There is a constant need for blood," Phillips said. "Patients in local hospitals depend on voluntary blood donations to receive the transfusions they need for treatment of sickle cell disease, cancer, surgeries and other conditions.

"It is such a simple way to have a tremendous impact on the lives of patients and their families and loved ones. A single blood donation could help save the lives of as many as three people."

Right now, there is a particular need for type O blood, Phillips said.

Albany's donor center, opened in 1994, is one of 14 in Georgia. In August, Red Cross officials indicated that the anticipated closing was a way for the organization to control costs -- and that a contributing factor was the fact that blood donations were down about 20 percent statewide.

The Red Cross website lists the donor center as being open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday and 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Feb. 29.

For a complete list of blood donation opportunities, more information on the blood donation process or to make an appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-27677).