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December 24, 2021

Blood donors desperately needed in Philly and beyond amid national shortage

A blood drive at a church in the Tacony neighborhood is at risk of being canceled unless more participants sign up

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National blood donor shortage Provided image/American Red Cross

Philadelphia is feeling the effects of the nationwide blood donation shortage, but blood banks and drives, including one event organized by a Tacony church, are having trouble finding participants amid the pandemic.

Blood banks are currently experiencing their biggest supply shortage in more than a decade, so organizations like the Red Cross are going into overdrive to get more people to donate this holiday season.

While donors have traditionally traded their blood for nothing more than a Band-Aid and a sweet treat to restore their glucose levels, the Red Cross is now offering each donor a free long-sleeve t-shirt until Jan. 2.

Earlier this month the organization went even further by offering donors $10 Amazon gift cards as part of a promotion that's since ended.

"Your donation is desperately needed this holiday season," the Philadelphia American Red Cross states on its website. "The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants."

Blood shortage often arise around the holiday season when the volume of donors usually trends downward. But this year supplies are even more scarce because the lifestyle changes necessitated by the pandemic made it much harder for the Red Cross and other organizations to find donors at schools, universities and businesses.

Additionally, the string of deadly tornadoes that ripped through a wide swath of Kentucky earlier this month seriously injured hundreds and further stretched the nation's already low supplies of donated blood.

Hospitals in Philadelphia are not immune from the trend. As the city faces a gun violence crisis and blows past its old homicide record, many of the victims of these shootings need the blood to survive.

That's one of many reasons the Star of Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia's Tacony neighborhood is partnering with the Red Cross to hold a much-needed blood drive on Saturday, Jan. 8. The drive will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hope Hall Banquet and Conference Center at 7212 Keystone St.

But church member Jonathan Heard said if they can't get more people signed up to donate, they'll have to cancel the event. 

As of Friday morning, he said only six people are registered. The church needs at least 30 people to sign up by the end of the year or the event will not take place.

People can register for this event by calling (800) 733-2767 and saying "Star of Hope." To sign up online, donors can go to the Red Cross Blood Services' Find a Drive website and search the venue's zip code, which is 19135, then can scroll down to Jan. 8 and click on the event to make an appointment.

The Red Cross' website also has hundreds of other locations and events where people can donate blood in the region.

The church could host a lot more than 30 people, Heard said. "The more the merrier."

To find out more about donating blood, visit the Red Cross Blood Services' website.

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