The gift of blood: Exceptional donors to the American Red Cross

by Emily Armentrout


The Wabash County Red Cross is seeking volunteers, not only to donate blood, which is always a great need, but they also are looking for Disaster Action Team members. Tracy Fox, Communications Manager for the American Red Cross, and Heidi Vandermark, Community Outreach specialist at the North Central Indiana Chapter of the American Red Cross, talked with The Paper about the needs here in Wabash County and a few community members who should be commended for their donations.

The Paper contacted the American Red Cross, seeking out a few of our county’s top blood donors. Some of the top donors in Wabash County have given between 19-32 gallons of blood, over the average span of 37 years.

John Miller, born and raised in Wabash County, has been a regular blood donor over the past 30 years. He has donated 19 gallons of blood in that time, but he believes he still has a ways to go in giving.

“It’s been over a 30 year period; it should have been a lot more,” Miller told The Paper. “All you have to do is need a pint of blood at the hospital and then people will realize how great the need is,” added Miller.

Patricia Chekouras, long time Wabash County resident, has donated 157 pints over the past 30 years, which equals out to 157 donations, as the Red Cross takes one pint of blood per donation.

“My parents used to donate and it was something I always wanted to do. I get rejected sometimes because of low iron. I would recommend drinking a lot of fluids. Eat a lot of raisins. A lot of people don’t have trouble with iron, but women do more than men. I always feel better after I give,” Chekouras told The Paper.

Lennie Rose, a Wabash County resident with O negative blood, decided to start giving blood to possibly alleviate headaches. After his headaches were gone, he decided to continue giving because of the great need and his O negative blood is considered a neutral blood, which can be used to help approximately three people with each donation, according to the American Red Cross. Rose has donated 185 times, totaling 23 gallons of blood since 1979.

“There is a lot of need for blood and you can help people by giving blood even if they can’t help in any other way,” Rose told The Paper.

Lifelong Wabash County resident Joseph Bakehorn has been donating blood since before the American Red Cross even started recording people’s donations. Bakehorn told The Paper that his first recorded donation was in 1954. Since then, Bakehorn has donated over 28 gallons of blood. Blood is usually donated by the pint and 28 gallons equals out to 224 pints of blood given since 1953.

“I was in World War II and I knew even back then they needed blood. When I got out of the service, I felt like they needed it, so I started giving,” Bakehorn told The Paper. “It’s a worthy cause. I’m going to keep on giving as long as they’ll take it,” added Bakehorn.

Meredith Speicher, lifelong Wabash resident, is a member of the blood donating community that multiple people mentioned during their interviews. Speicher has been donating blood since 1950 and has donated over 32 gallons of blood.

“There were a couple of friends who needed blood in the early 50s and at that time, you could give directly to the hospital. I have O negative blood and plenty of it, so I just keep on giving,” Speicher told The Paper.

It was discovered that Speicher has never been exposed to a certain type of virus, so his blood can be used for newborn babies.

“They can divide that one pint into four units and it can help four different newborn babies,” said Speicher.

If you are interested in donating blood with the American Red Cross, there is an opportunity on Monday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Miller’s Merry Manor, located at 1720 Alber Street, Wabash.

Another volunteer opportunity that is available to the members of the Wabash County community, as well as Grant and Miami Counties, is volunteering as a Disaster Action Team member (DAT).

Disaster Action Teams respond to home fires, as well as weather related events. Team members are required to train in the classroom and online. Some of their classroom training consists of determining assistance needed, how to fill out forms on the scene as well as sheltering.

DAT member volunteers are placed on a monthly schedule, based on their availability. They would receive calls on nights and weekends directly from dispatch, and during the week, volunteers would receive calls from the American Red Cross office, sending them to the scene.

“What DAT does is to meet with the client to determine immediate needs, such as food, clothing and shoes, shelter and emotional needs,” Heidi Vandermark told The Paper.

The American Red Cross has the resources to assist families with more than just food and shelter. The Red Cross also assists in reimbursement of medications lost in a fire and even replacing eyeglasses.

“If it is determined the client needs immediate assistance they will receive a Client Assistant Card, which can used at most stores to purchase items such as food and clothing.” added Vandermark.

The Red Cross can also assist clients with the immediate need of shelter, with arrangements made at local hotels.

There are also opportunities for people to volunteer as office staff at the Red Cross in Wabash. If you are interested in volunteering as a Disaster Action Team member or as office staff, visit www.redcross.org or stop in the office.  “We are looking for DAT members for Wabash, Grant and Miami Counties,” Vandermark told The Paper.

The North Central Indiana Chapter of the American Red Cross has assisted at 335 fires in Wabash, Grant, Miami, Cass, Tipton and Howard counties over the past year. The assistance over the past year for home fires has totaled almost $75,000. If you are interested in donating to the North Central Indiana Chapter, you can visit the Red Cross’s website or send checks to the office in Wabash, 88 West Hill Street, Wabash, IN 46992.

Posted on 2014 Apr 22