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Mayflower First Baptist Church and Vilonia High School sponsor Red Cross blood drives in impacted areas one month after deadly tornado

Greater Ozarks-Arkansas

May 16, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  — On April 27, a massive tornado ripped a path through Central Arkansas, demolishing buildings, claiming lives and causing injuries. On the one-month anniversary of the event, two communities aim to pay it forward and help save lives at American Red Cross blood drives in Mayflower and Vilonia.

“We’ve held blood drives in the past and had planned for another,” said Sharon Wisniewski, blood drive coordinator at Mayflower First Baptist Church. “So many have reached out and tried to help our community, including the Red Cross. So, we want to give back in whatever way we can.”

Dozens of volunteers and disaster responders have been at work to help clear debris and meet survivors’ needs in the weeks since the storm hit. According to Wisniewski, the blood drive is a way that practically anyone can help out.

“For those who can’t make a financial contribution or maybe aren’t physically able to pick up debris, one hour to donate blood is something they can do,” she said. “We always hear there’s a need for blood, but with this situation, it hits closer to home.”

Vilonia High School’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) student organization knows firsthand about how quickly the need for blood can arise.

“There were so many people in our community, including some of my students, who needed blood in the hospital and the triage center,” said Stephanie Ramsey, FCCLA advisor and blood drive coordinator. “So, we want people to have the chance to give back and make a difference for others who might be in need.”

The blood already on the shelves is what helps in emergencies. The Red Cross provided several units of type O negative blood to two hospitals in Arkansas before the storm and supplied 40 units of plasma to help treat those who were injured.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities:

May 27 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Harp’s Food Center, 1048 Main St., in Vilonia

May 27 from 2-7p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 4 Highway 89 North, in Mayflower

Vilonia High School has been hosting blood drives for the past 10 years to help save lives and earn college scholarships for its high school seniors. The high school is only 44 pints away from reaching its $1,500 scholarship level, meaning two students would each receive $750 to go toward higher education.

“This blood drive comes at an important time,” Ramsey said. “Not only can we help the Red Cross, which has been so responsive here for us, but we can also help these students. It’s something small that we can do, but it does make a difference.”

The blood drives also comes on the verge of summer, a time when it can be difficult for the Red Cross to collect blood due to summer break from school and family vacations.

“The need for blood is constant and doesn’t take a summer holiday,” said Scott Caswell, CEO of the Greater Ozarks-Arkansas Blood Services Region. “When there’s a need for blood we want to be sure to meet it, but we rely on the help of volunteer donors to do that. Blood is needed in emergency situations and for patients who have a chronic health issue that requires blood transfusions often.”

Donors of all blood types are needed to help meet the constant need, especially donors with types O positive, O negative, A negative and B negative. Eligible donors are encouraged to make an appointment to donate by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visiting

How to donate blood

Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in Arkansas), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.