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West Hartford Receives Outstanding Service Award from Red Cross [Updated]

American Red Cross Blood Drives continue at West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The Town of West Hartford has received the American Red Cross’ ‘Outstanding Service Award’ for not just continuing but also increasing the number of blood drives held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford has been bestowed with an “Outstanding Service Award” by the American Red Cross.

Since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to greatly impact the state in mid-March, the Town of West Hartford has not only continued to utilize the Town Hall auditorium to host blood drives for the American Red Cross, but has actually increased the number of drives at a time when so many other blood donation sites were closed.

Since March, there have been 25 blood drives held at West Hartford Town Hall.

“When the pandemic began, the American Red Cross found itself in uncharted territories,” said Danielle Huntington, an account services manager with the Connecticut Region of the American Red Cross. “We were facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. From that point on, we expected to see the number of cancellations continue to increase, which caused heightened concern for blood collection organizations and hospitals across the country. In early March, I turned to my wonderful partners at West Hartford Town Hall for support and they went above and beyond to help us anyway they could. Since March, we have been running blood drives nearly once a week at Town Hall and to date have collected an incredible 1,340 units of blood.”

Four more blood drives are already scheduled for December:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 9 a.m.-6 pm.
  • Wednesday, Dec.. 16, from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 21, from noon-5:30 p.m.

Helen Rubino-Turco, West Hartford’s director of Social Services and Leisure Services, noted that the auditorium’s large space is ideally suited for maintaining distancing and privacy during the blood drive events, and credited town leaders with recognizing the urgent need for life-saving blood donations.

Huntington said that during the holiday season, busy schedules usually result in a dip in the number of blood donations. “The need for blood is constant because chronic medical conditions and emergencies that require blood transfusions do not stop for the holidays or a pandemic,” Huntington said.

In addition, Huntington added, donors will be able to find out if they have COVID-19 antibodies.

“The American Red Cross is currently testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. As part of that effort, plasma from standard whole blood donations that tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies may now help current COVID-19 patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions,” she said.

“I want to extend my most sincere thank you to our partners at West Hartford Town Hall, our blood donors in the community and our incredible volunteers. Your unwavering support as brought me to tears more times than I can count. I wish everyone much peace and joy this holiday season,” Huntington said.

In a letter that accompanied the award to the town, Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross wrote:

“Thank you very much for your ongoing dedication to the American Red Cross. Every day, I am deeply moved by the kindness and generosity of spirit you bring to our vital mission. But it’s times like these times of great uncertainty that I am truly in awe of your unwavering commitment.

“As thousands of blood drives around the nation were cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19, please know that your drive protected the health and well-being of the most vulnerable among us including accident victims, cancer patients, those suffering from chronic illnesses and many others.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you for stepping up to help collect and donate lifesaving blood, even as the circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak often made it difficult to do so.

“On behalf of those we serve, thank you once again for your tremendous efforts to strengthen and advance our Red Cross mission during this uniquely challenging time. We look forward to better times ahead, and to our continued partnership to save lives.”

To make an appointment to donate blood to the American Red Cross at the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium, call 800-733-2767.

Questions can also be addressed to Red Cross representative Danielle Huntington at [email protected].

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