HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Rotary Club met virtually Monday, July 20 as the club hosted American Red Cross speakers, Tom Hinman, Paula Coyle, and Mary Green.
Hinman is currently the market manager for northern New England and eastern Massachusetts, and resides in North Yarmouth with his wife. Coyle is Maine’s first volunteer recruiter, and resides outside of Portland with her husband. Both Hinman and Coyle are based out of the Portland Red Cross office. Green is the community manager for Aroostook County Red Cross and resides in Caribou with her husband.
The Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in 1881. Coyle introduced the mission as, “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
The fundamental principles of the Red Cross are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary services (90 percent of the workforce is volunteer), unity, and universality. The Red Cross comprises training services, biomedical, disaster services, service to the armed forces, and international services.
Hinman explained that 62 percent of the American population is not able to donate blood due to age (only age 16 and older can donate) and other limitations, however, out of the 38 percent of the remaining population that is able to donate, only about 5 percent do so. He explained that blood supply is imperative to saving lives. One donation can potentially save up to three lives, and someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. Some patients need whole blood donations, and others need red cells, platelets, or plasma. For instance, cancer patients often need platelets and burn victims need plasma in order to survive.
Maine Red Cross relies on blood donations from many organizations including schools and universities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, blood donors who regularly gave blood were largely unavailable due to universities and many other organizations being closed.
Because of this low blood supply crisis, Hinman had the idea of rural communities creating “boosters,” whereby a community member or organization rallies people within the community to come to the blood drive on a given date and donate their blood. He states that the Maine Red Cross developed a “northeast community cluster program” for Aroostook, Washington, Hancock, and northern Penobscot counties. Boosters were designated within the cluster program. Janet Vose at Houlton Regional Hospital leads the booster team in Houlton, although, Red Cross is looking for more boosters in the area.
After creating these programs, the first blood drive in Aroostook in June was a huge success. The team was hoping for 270 units of blood from The County, and they exceeded this amount. Green reports that the last blood drive held in Houlton at the armory was also very successful. The next blood drive in Houlton is scheduled for Aug. 21, however appointments need to be made ahead of time so that people will not have to wait. If you are interested in donating, please sign up online beforehand at redcrossblood.org-houlton.
Beyond the biomedical aspect of the Red Cross in Aroostook County, Green reports that fires, floods, training services (CPR, babysitting, First Aid), and services to veterans and their families are among the assistance provided. Volunteers are always needed for the Red Cross. Coyle encouraged people to sign up online to be a volunteer.
She states that one can volunteer by just making phone calls recruiting others to sign up to donate for a local blood drive. If one has a more adventurous spirit, they can volunteer to help respond to national disasters. Red Cross pays for all travel and meal expenses, and volunteers are asked to schedule two weeks to provide aid while volunteering for national disasters such as hurricanes, floods, etc. Both Coyle and Green state that their two-week deployments responding to disasters have been incredibly rewarding experiences.