By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Norma Poole has a collection of red pins that have become particularly important to her over the years.
The pins are in recognition of all the gallons of blood she has donated dating back to when she was a 17-year-old high school student.
“I have most of my pins. I keep them out. They are very special to me,” Poole said.
Now 60, the Sea Isle City resident has donated nearly 19 gallons of blood in her lifetime. To put that in perspective, the average adult has about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood in their body.
On Wednesday, Poole coordinated a blood drive in Sea Isle that collected 37 pints of blood from nearly 40 donors from Sea Isle, Ocean City, Dennis Township, Upper Township and Wildwood.
“I was quite pleased to hear at the end of the day that it was 37 pints,” said Poole, who serves as the blood drive coordinator for Sea Isle’s United Methodist Church, where she is a member.
Local blood drives such as the one in Sea Isle are particularly important at a time when the American Red Cross is struggling with a critical blood shortage nationwide caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They say that each point of blood will help save three people,” Poole said.
Stringent safety precautions and sanitizing measures are put in place by the Red Cross during blood drives to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Poole noted that donors must make an appointment rather than simply showing up unannounced to give blood.
“This is critical,” she said of the safety protocols. “Unfortunately, when you give blood now, you have to make an appointment. That’s something that some people don’t understand.”
Members of the Sea Isle City Police Department were among those who donated “the gift of life” on Wednesday.
“It’s just another opportunity for us to join forces in the community,” Police Chief Tom McQuillen said. “If we can lend our name to a positive program and help draw other people, we’re happy to do it.”
This was the second year that the police department participated in the blood drive. Sea Isle’s United Methodist Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church and the police department work with the Red Cross to coordinate the drives.
McQuillen said he encourages members of the police department to donate blood. If they are on duty when a blood drive is held, the officers are given time to donate.
During the last local blood drive in October, McQuillen gave what is known as a “Power Red” donation. It is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow donors to safely give two units of red blood cells during one donation instead of a single pint. Those who do must wait at least six months before making their next blood donation.
Poole, meanwhile, said that she donates blood five times a year. She has served as the blood drive’s coordinator for United Methodist Church since about 2012.
“I mainly do this for my community, United Methodist Church and the police department,” she said.
McQuillen noted that the police department enjoys teaming up with Poole for the blood drive.
“Norma Poole is a great ambassador for the Red Cross and we’re happy to work with her,” he said.