Churches Helping to Increase Diversity of Blood Supply

August 23, 2010

The American Red Cross is kicking off its “Blue Tie Tag” program at the Glad Tidings Church blood drive in Hayward on August 27 and Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland on August 28.

The Blue Tie Tag program is a blood donor recruitment initiative designed to increase the diversity of the local blood supply.  The program is a partnership between the American Red Cross Northern California Blood Services Region and the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.

Blood transfusions are part of the treatment for sickle cell disease, prevalent in the African American community.  While African-Americans represent 12 to 14 percent of the total U.S. population, only about 1 percent of the African-American community donates blood.

Under the program, when blood donors identify themselves as being African-American, a Red Cross staff member will tie a “blue tag” to the blood collection bag.  That unit of blood will be then be matched to a patient with sickle cell disease.  If a patient with sickle cell disease does not need the donation within 21 days, the unit of blood becomes available for any patient in need.

Patients with sickle cell disease need many blood transfusions.  African-Americans can provide blood which may more closely match the blood of other African-Americans.

There are millions of molecules called antigens on red blood cells.  A patient receiving regular transfusions should get blood matched as closely as possible to the antigens in their blood to prevent the formation of antibodies, which could react against the antigens in the transfused blood.  Such antibodies make it extremely difficult to find compatible red blood cells for transfusion patients.

“Patients depend on blood being available when they need it – many times with very little warning,” Red Cross Region CEO Jay Winkenbach said.  “A diverse blood supply helps ensure that a wide variety of blood types are available for those in need.”

The Glad Tidings blood drive will be open to the public, and is being held in an effort to make blood donation more convenient for members of the South Hayward community.  The drive will be held in the Helen J. Macklin Hall at 27689 Tyrrell Avenue from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 27, 2010.

Appointments can be made online or by calling the church at 510-793-9377.  All presenting donors will receive a Red Cross T-shirt and will be eligible to enter a drawing for a $100 gift card from Best Buy.

“The Red Cross told us that increasing blood donations from people of color, whether African-American, Hispanic or Asian, is essential because blood types O and B are more prevalent in these populations.  Glad Tidings church members are thrilled to hold the kick-off blood drive and be a leader in diversifying the local blood supply,” Church member and Red Cross Board Member Marion DePuit said.  “We would also like to welcome everyone in our community.  The drive is not just for our parishioners.”

The Allen Temple blood drive will be held the next day (August 28) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The church is located at 8501 International Boulevard in Oakland.  The drive will be part of a health fair.

Appointments can be made online or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  All presenting donors will also receive a Red Cross T-shirt and will be able to enter a drawing for a $100 gift card from Best Buy.

“Allen Temple seeks to help and nurture women and men to develop and maintain responsive and responsible leadership in the church and community to meet the challenges for community peace and wholeness,” Reverend Dr. J. Alfred Smith Jr. said.  “We work together with God to assist our community to meet the needs of others on this earth.  Giving blood is a way many can help save a life.”

Individuals who are 17 years old or older (16 years old with parental permission), meet height and weight requirements (at least 110 pounds based on height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.  There is no upper age limit for blood donation.


About the American Red Cross:

The Northern California Blood Services Region of the Red Cross supplies blood to more than 30 Bay Area hospitals, and needs to collect approximately 350 pints of blood each day in order to meet patient needs.