A Giving Community in the Illinois River Valley

At the corner of 4th and Grant Streets in Peru, Illinois in LaSalle County, a familiar scene unfolds. Donors from around the community walk, bike and drive to the American Red Cross Illinois Valley Donation Center to roll up a sleeve and give blood. img_5778 “It’s so convenient, I work just across the street,” one donor said. There is a blood drive at the center nearly every other Tuesday, which makes it easy for regular donors to continue to give. IMG_5774

Shawn Bekelski has been donating blood for over 30 years since he started giving blood on a whim in the 1980’s as a member of the National Guard.

“They said anyone who donated got to leave two hours early that day,” he said with a laugh. Linda Barnard is also a regular donor. Having the O- blood type, she knows how important it is to give consistently. She also donates in honor of her dad, James Barnard, who donated over 15 gallons of blood to the Red Cross during his lifetime. IMG_5780
Linda Barnard and Shawn Bekelski are both regular blood donors at the Red Cross Donation Center in Peru.
“I want to continue his legacy,” she said of his persistent giving. Kathy Koscielski has been volunteering with the Red Cross since 2011, and currently helps with the snack area at this blood drive along with other volunteers. A gift left by the family of long-time volunteer Jane Duncan allows the post-blood donation snacks to be extra special at this drive, including extra desserts and BBQ sandwiches. IMG_5782
Volunteers Shelley Sines, Kathy Koscielski and Mary Kibilka help staff the canteen area for people to rest and enjoy snacks after giving blood.
These volunteers say it is a great community to be a part of and how exciting it is to see not only donors return to give but when there is someone new donating for the very first time. Jennifer Fabish is not a first-time donor, but she encouraged her 16-year-old son, RJ, to become a donor and he certainly made it count by doing a Power Red donation on his first time giving! She hopes to make donating blood a family tradition as it was for her grandfather and understands the impact both of their donations can have. IMG_5788 “And with the shortage right now, as someone with O-, it helps so many more people to do the Power Red,” Fabish said. In celebration of the upcoming Independence Day holiday on July 4th, the center will be giving out mini American flags to donors through a sponsorship by current long-time volunteer Esther Sparks. Make your appointment to donate blood at an upcoming drive by going to www.redcrossblood.org and consider doing a Power Red! #givelife

Written by communications manager Holly Baker

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