Got an Hour? Save a Life: Donate Blood

There is currently a critical and urgent need for blood donations

By Catherine Miller

Donna Smith-Phelan donated blood this past March for the first time. She donated in honor of her late father, Bud Smith.

“My dad passed away a year ago this March,” explained Phelan, “He was a 45-year faithful blood donor. In honor of the one-year anniversary of his passing I decided to give blood and plan on making it a habit.”

Her timing could not have been more perfect. Now, more than ever, there is a critical and urgent need for blood donations in our area. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many things, including our blood supply. Gone are the days when the bloodmobile stood outside of office buildings and schools with lines of people eagerly waiting to donate. So, without the visual reminder during the work day, most people have foregone their habit of giving a pint of blood every eight weeks or so.

“This really is the perfect storm with regard to our desperate need for blood donors,” admitted Amanda Farrell, Director of Donor Recruitment for ConnectLife, “Currently with elective surgeries on the rise and a decrease in blood drives at schools and corporations we are at a critical need for blood donors. We are presently at a low two– or three-day supply in our region. On the average we never want to be lower than a five-day supply.”

Smith-Phelan admits she is just one of the Bud Smith daughters jumping on the blood donor bandwagon. Sister Dory began donating shortly after the death of their father. And, their sister, Deb, a Florida resident, has been a regular blood donor for years.

The Smith sisters donate in honor of the father that made it a part of his routine to visit a local blood bank every 56 days.

“I remember growing up knowing that my dad was a blood donor,” said Phelan, “He just wanted to help the community and held people in need. That is just the way he was. I’m honored to do this in his memory.”

Donating blood is easy, safe and all blood donations to our local blood banks help people right in our community. Masks are worn, COVID-19 restrictions are in place and appointments are recommended at donation sites; although walk-in appointments can usually be accommodated.

You can log in to a blood donation portal after donating to find out your blood type and schedule future donation appointments.

“The actual blood draw only takes five-10 minutes,” explained Farrell. “Although first-time donors can expect to be in and out in about an hour for the full process. You can donate whole blood every 56 days and platelets every two weeks. We are in a dire need for O negative blood as it can be universally used for all people in need.”

To make an appointment, contact the American Red Cross at or call 1-800-REDCROSS. You can also contact ConnectLife (formerly UNYTS) at 716-529-4270 or visit

You can look up local donations sites and blood drives near you using your zip code and get addresses for the most convenient place and time. If you’ve recently received the coronavirus vaccine there is no need to wait. You can donate the same day as long as you are feeling well. And if you’ve recently had COVID-19, you can donate as soon as you complete the required quarantine time and are feeling well and are asymptomatic.

If you are looking for a way to honor a loved one, celebrate a life event, or just get friends together for a good cause, and we could all use a bit of positivity in our lives, consider hosting a blood drive. ConnectLife will help you to set up an event at a community center, fire hall or anywhere their mobile bus can travel.

“One young mother just celebrated her son’s 1 year birthday by holding a blood drive,” said Farrell. “She needed 12 units of blood at the time of her delivery. The 12 people that donated blood to her attended her blood drive and met the mother and baby that they saved.

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the birth of your child than to spend it with the ones that made his birth possible.”

“I am eligible to donate again in May,” said Phelan. “And I will definitely be donating then and in the future. My daughter, Carley, began to donate as well. Our hope is that one day if we, or a loved one, are in need of blood there is someone out there in the community that will donate for us.”

Check out the websites for the American Red Cross and ConnectLife for additional information and locations where you can donate today. This is a perfect time to find a reason to donate.

Photo: Member of the North Buffalo rugby team donating blood at Kenton Elmwood Commons.