Whether offering refreshments, thanking donors for their attendance or helping promote campaigns throughout the year, volunteers are a driving force behind the Barrie blood donor centre.
“The ongoing support of volunteers is critical to helping us encourage more people to donate life-saving blood and plasma that will have a lasting impact in the lives of others,” says Marianne MacCarl, volunteer co-ordinator for Canadian Blood Services in Barrie.
MacCarl tells BarrieToday that volunteers play a vital role in boosting the centre’s efforts to collect life essentials of all kinds for patients.
“When talking with applicants and existing donors, all weave a common thread into their conversations," she says.
MacCarl also mentioned that the volunteers at the centre look for a way to give back to their community.
“This unique sense of importance in supporting their community helps volunteers give back in ways that are meaningful for them, and for those whose lives they have a hand in saving," she adds.
That seems to be the case with Mary Janicki, who has volunteered with Canadian Blood Services in Barrie since 2012.
“With a nursing background and hearing numerous pleas for blood donations from various media outlets, volunteering at the Barrie clinic seemed a good fit at retirement," she says.
Janicki says the donors are amazing and their commitment is outstanding. She remembered being particularly touched by the story of one young donor.
“He emotionally recounted how this was an anniversary of the death of a loved one, and felt he had to do his part to help others,” she says. “At times like this, a kind word of support goes a long way and is rewarding in itself.”
Krisanne Flinders, who has volunteered since 2018, had been a donor in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but had to stop donating due to an iron deficiency.
“In 2016-17, I got pretty sick and one my goals was to become well enough not only to regularly donate again but also to become a volunteer. I’m thankful to have accomplished both goals," she says.
Flinders says she feels privileged to meet so many people at every volunteer shift who give blood simply because they can.
She remembers one day in September 2019 as a particularly special moment.
“September is childhood cancer awareness month, and a wonderful family was set up outside our clinic saying a big thank you to each donor as they came into the clinic to give blood," Flinders says.
The reason was because a family member, at the time two-year-old Paisley, had been diagnosed with a high-risk leukemia earlier that year.
“Blood transfusions were helping Paisley with her fight. Their gratitude was so inspirational," she says.
In addition to hospitality tasks, volunteers with the Barrie donor centre also help spread the word about the importance of donating blood, platelets, and plasma, as well as registering to be a stem cell, organ and tissue donor, or choosing to make financial donation.
MacCarl points out the national blood inventory has declined by 35 per cent since the start of October 2022, which she believes is the result of an increase in respiratory illness, colds, influenza, and COVID-19.
“People cannot donate when they are not well, and our cancellation rates have jumped significantly. In addition, recent winter weather has impacted our collections," she says.
But MacCarl also notes that the demand for blood and blood products remains constant, and all open appointments need to be filled to ensure the national supply meets patients’ needs over the coming days, weeks and months. She said everyone can help by encouraging others to donate.
“Ask a family member, friend, or colleague to book an appointment to donate at the same time as you, or give in honour of patients as a group, or by joining or starting a Partners for Life team," she suggests.
Through the Partners for Life program, run by Canadian Blood Services, friends, family, businesses, organizations, and community groups can adopt a day to donate blood as a team.
Every week, there are more than 400 appointments to fill at the Barrie donor centre on Bayview Drive in the city's south end. Appointments are required to donate. Same-day and open appointment spots are available.
Visit blood.ca, use the GiveBlood app, or call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) to find and book an appointment at the Barrie donor centre.