The American Red Cross is celebrating this month during National Volunteer Month the blood, platelet and plasma donors who help fulfill its lifesaving mission.

“And, over the past year, these heroes rolled up a sleeve to help ensure blood was available for patients across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sue Thesenga, an American Red Cross regional communications manager, stated in a news release.

A woman wears a required face mask during the coronavirus pandemic while donating blood at an American Red Cross collection site. Submitted photo / American Red Cross
A woman wears a required face mask during the coronavirus pandemic while donating blood at an American Red Cross collection site. Submitted photo / American Red Cross

With no substitute for blood and no way to manufacture it, volunteer donors are essential for hospital patients in need of transfusions, according to officials. Nearly 2.6 million Red Cross volunteer donors step up every year to ensure blood is on the shelves when patients need it.

“We can’t let up now. Healthy volunteer donors are needed every day to help keep the blood flowing for hospitals and patients that rely on a readily available blood supply,” Thesenga stated.

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A man signals he is OK while donating blood to the American Red Cross, a nonprofit that for a limited time is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Submitted photo / American Red Cross
A man signals he is OK while donating blood to the American Red Cross, a nonprofit that for a limited time is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Submitted photo / American Red Cross

The Red Cross continues to urge healthy individuals, especially those with type O blood, to give blood to ensure hospitals can meet patient needs.

“As a special thank-you, those who come to give by April 30 will automatically be entered for a chance to win one of five $1,000 e-gift cards to a merchant of choice,” Thesenga stated.

A man donates blood at a Minnesota collection site for the American Red Cross. Submitted photo / American Red Cross
A man donates blood at a Minnesota collection site for the American Red Cross. Submitted photo / American Red Cross

The Red Cross is testing blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus. Testing may also identify the presence of antibodies developed after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Plasma from routine blood and platelet donations that test positive for high levels of antibodies may be used as convalescent plasma to meet the potential future needs of COVID-19 patients. Convalescent plasma may help patients who are actively fighting the virus.

The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.

RELATED: Red Cross urges blood donation to maintain supply amid pandemic

How to donate blood

To make a blood donation appointment for any upcoming blood drive, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information.

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in at the blood collection site. Potential donors must have not donated in the last 56 days.

Those who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate.

(High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.)

Donors are required to wear a face-covering or mask. Blood drives will follow social distancing guidelines, including spacing out donor beds, waiting and refreshment areas. Donors and staff have their temperatures checked prior to entering a blood drive or donation center.

RELATED: American Red Cross hosts virtual fundraiser during Red Cross Month

Red Cross blood drives

Aitkin

  • Noon- 6 p.m. April 26, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 324 Third St. NW.

  • Noon- 6 p.m. April 27, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 324 Third St. NW.

  • 9 a.m.-3 p.m. April 28, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 324 Third St. NW.

Baxter

  • Noon- 6 p.m. April 16, at Shoe Sensation, 14136 Baxter Drive.

  • 11 a.m.-5 p.m., April 23, at Lakewood Church, 6284 Fairview Road.

Little Falls

  • 9 a.m.-3 p.m. April 21, at Morrison County Government Center, 213 First Ave. SE.

Long Prairie

  • Noon-6 p.m. April 16, First Baptist Church, 401 Fourth St. S.

Verndale

  • 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. April 27, Verndale Pop-Up, 109 NW Brown St.

Wadena

  • 9 a.m.-3 p.m., April 22, Karvonen Funeral Home, 419 Second St. NE.