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'Critical Need': Suncoast Science Center hosts blood drive to address growing blood shortage

'There’s many many safeguards that will be taking place so there should be no fear whatsoever in giving blood,' Leigh-Estes said.

SARASOTA, Fla. — As the number of COVID-19 cases rise, the need for donors is even greater. But it’s not just convalescent plasma local blood banks are in need of. It’s blood.

“20 years ago, 15 percent of the population donated blood on a regular basis,” Joan Leonard said. “We are down to 3 percent of the population. That’s a huge difference.”

Just because COVID-19 is around, doesn’t mean other diseases disappeared. SunCoast Blood Centers says there’s a critical need as their blood supply is running out for cancer patients.

“We’re down all over the country! It isn’t just here on the SunCoast it is everywhere,” Joan Leonard said. “Between the fires and hurricanes and the pandemic it’s been a rough couple of months.”

Leonard is a community liaison for SunCoast Blood Centers. She says typically this time of year they have their 14 area high schools to depend on.

She says 20 percent of their collections come from those high school blood drives.

“We have only had one high school with one blood drive since March, so that affects our blood supply in negative numbers,” Leonard said.

To help offset this, the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab is stepping up to help by hosting a blood drive.

The blood drive will be held from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 4452 South Beneva Rd, Sarasota, FL 34233. You need to be at least 16 in order to donate.

“Right now, there’s a critical need for people that are receiving transfusions who have cancer, as well as the COVID patients,” Donna Leigh-Estes said. “We are going to be there to do what we can to help.”

Donna Leigh-Estes is the operations and business development director for Suncoast Science Center. She says she herself is already signed up to donate blood.

“I am the first one on the list! I am at 9 o’clock on Thursday morning,” Leigh-Estes said. “I signed up immediately!”

Leigh-Estes says there will also be COVID-19 antibody testing with every successful donation.

“COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, even for symptomatic and non-symptomatic people of all ages, so this is an opportunity to get the antibody test at no charge,” Leigh-Estes said.

“It’s a whole different world out there right now so we need to adjust and again the Science Center is helping us make that adjustment, but we need people to come out,” Leonard said.

There’s also a few more incentives in place to draw out more donors. If you donate you will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and be entered into a raffle to win free passes to an upcoming STEM Saturdays class or holiday workshop held at SSC.

After a record-breaking turnout at Suncoast Science Center’s first blood drive in July 2020, they’re hoping to do it again. The summer drive brought in over 70 donors and produced enough blood to save a potential 170 lives.

Both Leigh-Estes and Leonard want to emphasize that it is safe to donate. Masks will be required on site, temperatures checks will take place before a donation and proper sanitation and social distancing will be enforced.

“There’s many many safeguards that will be taking place so there should be no fear whatsoever in giving blood,” Leigh-Estes said.

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