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Bloodworks Northwest
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Pop-up centers open Bloodworks Northwest to ‘whole new audience’

Melissa Cruz, donates COVID-19 convalescent plasma at Bloodworks Northwest on April 17, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

When the pandemic brought a lot of things to a halt in the past year, many local charities and philanthropies had to adapt their operations. Bloodworks Northwest hosted pop-up donation centers in sporting and entertainment venues while they were closed. Juan Cotto, social impact director for Bloodworks Northwest, joined fill-in host Saul Spady on the Dori Monson Show to discuss the pop-ups.

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“The impacts of COVID-19 hit all of us this year, and the traditional model that Bloodworks has operated under — we did blood drives in the community; we would do those with mobile units — because of the FDA and CDC guidelines to to provide a safe area … for blood donors, we basically had to look at different ways that we could do that,” Cotto explained. “We made the decision not to use mobile units based on those requirements. So what we did was we reached out to community folks to see if they would help us by supporting us, allowing us to use their facilities.”

This allowed for a safe environment for the staff, Cotto said, and a safe environment for the donors.

“One of the most visible ones was with the Seattle Mariners,” he said. “They did a pop-up for us, which was extremely successful, number one. And number two, it allowed donors to come, and it allowed us to maintain a safe environment down at T-Mobile Park.”

It also provided an opportunity for local organizations, like the Mariners, to champion blood donors’ participation.

“The Mariners took on a whole new light in terms of promoting blood donor-ship with their base,” Cotto said. “You talked about the pop-ups at the different places that do music, and the Paramount Theater, … it gave them the opportunity to extend their voice and help us with their clientele. And it was just a really, really successful way to get new blood donors into the program, and also to help our existing donors with just wonderful, safe places where they could come and donate blood.”

These pop-up donation sites offered a chance for the greater community to volunteer to help their neighbors in need, especially after many weeks and months of staying at home.

“What [the event] did was it opened up Bloodworks to a whole new audience,” Cotto said. “And as people were, because of COVID, were either stuck in their homes or really reducing the amount of travel, this gave people, a variety of people, a first opportunity to really go out and volunteer and do something, and blood donation was one of those things. We heard so many different folks, … that this was the first time that they had really volunteered to do anything in their community. And we were just glad that blood donation was on everyone’s conscious.”

Cotto reminded listeners that the need for blood donations is constant. Typically, donations are lower at certain times of the year, like during the holidays, but the need never goes away. Plus, as Cotto pointed out, there’s no telling when the next accident is going to happen and more blood will be needed.

To help increase awareness of the need for blood donations, a bill was signed in the state House and Senate, and then by Gov. Inslee, recognizing an official state blood donor day.

“What that allowed us to do this past December 18th, was to recognize the importance of blood donation,” Cotto said. “And it was tied together on the date of the train derailment three years ago down near DuPont, Washington.”

After the train accident, people across the state rallied to give blood to the victims, with turnout setting record highs for the state.

“But you have to remember when that train accident occurred, the blood that was donated for that accident was donated two weeks before,” Cotto said. “So what we tell our donors is this, and what we tell people in the community, you know, it’s a constant because you just never know when the next accident is going to happen. And we have seen it across our country where there have been shootings, where we’ve been able — shootings and other types of accidents — where we’ve been able to take our blood and have an impact in those situations, and that’s from people making consistent blood donations.”

“So it’s always critical because we want to be prepared for any accident or occurrence that happens,” he added. “So the blood that you give today will certainly save someone in the future.”

From now until March 17, people who donate blood through Bloodworks Northwest will be eligible to win a new vehicle. Learn more about how to win a car here, or find a donation site near you. There will be another pop-up center with the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park in February.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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