When Colleen Brooks sold her Baker City fabric shop, she needed something to fill her days. First she volunteered at the museum, then a friend suggested she help with the American Red Cross blood drive.
“I thought I’d give it a try for a little while and see what I think,” Brooks said. “I was looking for something worthwhile to do. I didn’t want to blow my time not doing something.”
Her “little while” turned out to be nearly 35 years.
Brooks, 85, is retiring from her volunteer post as coordinator of local blood drives, handing the job over to Julianne Williams and Myrna Evans.
Baker City has five blood drives per year. Prior to each of those, Brooks personally called past donors to sign them up for a time slot.
“I called for days and days,” she said.
She found that personal calls were the most effective way to recruit donors.
“I can be pretty persuasive,” she said.
For many years, the local blood drives were held over two days. That meant she had to reserve the space, request garbage service, get her crew of volunteers lined up, register donors, and organize the food.
“Everything is donated — not only the food, but the garbage service and the church,” she said. “It doesn’t cost the Red Cross a single thing.”
Donors are encouraged to rest a bit and eat something after giving blood. For the two-day drives, Brooks would get sandwiches from Subway and pizza from Pizza Hut, as well as boil dozens of eggs for fresh egg salad sandwiches. Volunteers also brought beef broth.
Now that the blood drive is one day, the food from Subway and Pizza Hut is sufficient to fortify the donors.
The next blood drive is noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at the Calvary Baptist Church, corner of Broadway and Third streets.
Although she’s no longer in charge, Brooks will still be there for a bit.
“I will definitely come down,” she said. “These are my 35-year friends. I’ll be there to do what I can to help. And not be too bossy.”
The Red Cross is planning a celebration at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, during the blood drive, to honor Brooks for her decades of work.
“Everybody who has donated during Colleen’s leadership is encouraged to donate during the drive and say thank you to her,” Williams said.
Appointments are still available. Those 17 and older can donate; 16-year-olds can donate with a parent’s permission.
“We’d love to have high school students,” Williams said.
She said currently there is an urgent need for blood, especially type O negative and type B negative.
“Power donors” who can give double reds are also needed. Those who meet the criteria can donate two units of red cells during one appointment (plasma and platelets are returned to the donor).
Williams said using the Red Cross Rapid Pass on the day of the drive (redcrossblood.org/RapidPass) will help shorten the time it takes to donate. Nationally, the Red Cross needs 13,000 donations of blood and platelets every day.
To sign up, call Williams at 541-523-3560. Those who can’t donate but still want to help can staff the registration desk.