Don Fowler has a strong conviction for doing community service. He has been an active volunteer in our community for countless years helping people in many different ways, but Don’s most dedicated service is giving the gift of life every 56 days.
Don’s first experience with blood donation was in the Marine Corps when he was 19 years old. “There is no substitute for blood and being part of the military you experience the need and this pushes you to become a volunteer blood donor,” explained Don. Then Don began donating at Houchin Community Blood Bank’s F Street location when his close friend who was a volunteer at the blood bank encouraged him to donate. Don believed that volunteering in his community was one of his top priorities and he wanted to instill the importance of community service with his family, friends and co-workers. Don also knew the importance of donating on a regular basis because his blood type is O-. “It is important to know your blood type because not all blood types are needed at all times but knowing I am the universal blood donor, I know I am needed to come in every 56 days.”
Donating blood became a regular routine in Don’s life, “as you walk into the blood bank you can see the top donors reaching their next milestone and I made it a goal to become one of the top leaders at Houchin,” expressed Don. On April 4, 2013, he reached is 24 gallon milestone and Don will continue to donate, “I want to reach my highest potential and as long as I am healthy then I can reach it.”
Besides being an avid blood donor, Don is part of the Westchester Kiwanis and he is the chairman of the Blood Drive Committee in Kiwanis. He also enjoys traveling in his RV with his family. Don also owns a wood working shop and he enjoys creating toys for kids. Don encourages others to donate, especially high school students: “its great community service and Houchin has a wonderful high school program that is raising the next generation of dedicated donors to sustain the community’s blood supply.”
The holiday season is built on traditions so thanks to our sponsor, Paramount Farms, we are again able to offer our annual Destination for Your Donation Blood Drive beginning November 21 through November 30, one lucky donor can be relaxing on the beaches of Hawaii. The Destination for your Donation is a trip for two to Hawaii, which can be customized at a local travel agent and taken any time during the next year. To kick-off this blood drive this year, on Thursday, November 21 from 5-8 pm at our Truxtun Donor Center, donors will enjoy the flavors of the Hawaiian Islands.
Jane Smith was the lucky donor who won the Destination for your Donation trip to Hawaii last year.
On long weekends, especially holiday weekends, there is a decrease in donors that are coming in the door to donate blood and platelets. Long holiday weekends pose an extra challenge when many donors are traveling to be with family and friends. Winter illnesses among regular donors just add to the difficulty. Winter holidays are a time when blood supply decreases while emergency needs remain the same. The blood that comes in Thanksgiving week not only can help keep supplies up for Thanksgiving holiday travelers, accidents, and illnesses, but will also help carry us through the December holidays.
Paramount Farm’s support allows us to offer a really attractive incentive to encourage donations during this crucial week. Not only are trip drawings fun for established donors, they can help new donors finally make the decision to come on in and donate. We hope Hawaii beckoning will in increase the number of new donors that decide to act on their desire to donate this year.
Fred Twisselman is a well-known donor at the blood bank. Even when he is not donating, he stops by and greets our staff because to Fred, Houchin Community Blood Bank is his second home. Fred is a dedicated donor who has donated over 21 gallons of whole blood, but in July 2012 he thought he had reached his last gallon achievement.
For three months, Fred was confined at the hospital for respiratory problems which made him weak. “The first thing that came through my mind is not being able to donate,” explained Fred. Fred began donating when he was 18 years old because his father had cancer. When his father passed away, Fred continued to donate in his memory and every time there was a need whether for friends, family,or even strangers, Fred would be one of the first donors lined up to donate. Determined to improve his health and get back to donating, Fred was able to meet that goal on July 2, 2013. Knowing that he was making a difference through his donations, helped Fred find the strength to build his health back. “It’s your body’s job to donate blood because, when you give a pint you make a pint and I was not ready to retire yet.”
Fred wanted to showcase his Houchin t-shirts so he had his Aunt Lucille create a quilt out of 26 Houchin t-shirts.
When Fred is not donating, he enjoys attending car shows and he owns a 1929 Ford Model A and a 1949 Ford F100. Fred also enjoys playing Santa Claus at Mt. Vernon Elementary during the holidays. “When I was in the hospital, I received three bags of get well cards from the children. Like being a blood donor, I was making a difference in their lives”, Fred says. Fred is a strong advocate for blood donation and he often calls KUZZ to help promote specific blood drives and stress the importance of blood donation. Fred encourages others to donate, “saving a life is priceless and being a donor is valuable.”
Donna Jackson is in the front row to the far right in this photograph of the 2009-2010 Kern County Grand Jury.
Kernville resident Donna Jackson donated her 128th pint of blood on Saturday, September 28th, at the Peddler’s Faire in Wofford Heights. This puts her in the elite club of 15 gallon donors!
What makes her story even more special, is that she has traveled many miles to make those donations, having lived for many years in the Kern River Valley. While she recently has been donating at the community blood drives in Kern River Valley, for many years she traveled down to the G street location in Bakersfield to donate whole blood and platelets. Donna doesn’t drive, so getting to the donor centers or mobile drives does take some extra effort, but it’s something she’s obviously willing to do for the cause of blood donation.
Donna is proud to have survived heart surgery and still be able to give back by regularly donating blood! When asked why this was important to her she shared: “I’m from a police/fire family – we want to help people”. She even recalled how disappointed she was to have to wait a whole year to be eligible to donate again after the birth of her son! Donna is an avid supporter of our work, not just in her pints of service, but in trying to convince others to give. She wears her blood donor shirts proudly to help start the conversation, and gives meaningful suggestions to the blood bank to encourage donation. Thank you Donna, we are delighted to acknowledge you as our October 2013 Donor of the Month!
Blood donors can enter for a chance to win 4 VIP tickets and 4 drink tickets to Bakersfield’s best adult Halloween party at the Marriott on Saturday, October 26, 2013. Beyond admission to the “Vampire’s Lair” for themselves and three friends, the lucky winner will also win a room for the night at the Bakersfield Marriott. Scary for Charity benefits the Jamison Center and Kern Partnership for Children & Families. The fun includes costume contest, themed appetizers and cocktails, dancing and an exciting silent auction all to benefit foster youth in our community. “We are proud of our partnership between Houchin Community Blood Bank, Kern County Department of Human Services, and the Kern Partnership because we are serving the needs of our community” Dena Murphy, Secretary of the Kern Partnership for Children and Families and Chief Deputy Director at Kern County Department of Human Services.
The Kern County Department of Human Services are continuous and committed participants in donating blood. Beginning January through September, 109 donations have been made and 21 new donors were captured at their blood drives. Heidi Carter Escudero, Outreach & Communications Specialist at Department of Human Services explained how important it is to donate blood. ”The first time I donated to Houchin was on 9-11-01. From that day forward, I became a frequent donor. Little did I know that following a simple out-patient surgery 6 years later, I would need two units of blood to save my own life. People should donate blood because you never know when you or a loved one might need to receive, “said Heidi.
A kick-off social will introduce donors to the fine folks who put on this event on Monday, October 14 from 4-7 pm. Blood donor and Weather Anchor Kevin Charette from KGET Channel 17 will be on hand LIVE to do the weather and tell the public about our blood drive and the Scary for Charity event. The Munster Koach and the Coffin Car from the hit 1960s television series “The Munsters” will be on display at the kick-off event, courtesy of Red Harden, owner of Carriage Masters Auto Body in Bakersfield who was one of the original builders of the vehicles.
Visit the event’s Facebook page for more on the organization, updates about the event, or to buy tickets and discount hotel rooms at the Marriott that evening.
Jose Vega can be considered a “first-responder” because when we are in need of his O+ blood, he will be the first in line to donate. Whenever there was an on-the-job trauma, Jose’s former employers would ask him to help because they knew he was a dedicated blood donor.
Jose began donating in high school when his mom needed blood. Then he influenced his high school friends to donate with him when his dad needed blood. He has been at it ever since to the tune of over 17 gallons.
Jose comes in to donate simply to save lives. He instilled his heroic traits to his two sons who also became donors because of him. When Jose was deferred a couple of times because of low iron, his doctor had to stop him donating for a year. ” I was upset because I had to stop donating, but I wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to give a good product,” said Jose. When he was diagnosed with diabetes, Jose changed his lifestyle. “I wanted to be healthier, not for just for myself, but because I wanted to save lives. As long as I am healthy, I will keep giving.”
Besides being a regular donor, Jose enjoys traveling and camping with his family at the beach and Sequoia National Park. Jose reassures others who are not donors to consider donating. “Why not help? Doctors encourage people who are healthy to donate because not only is it good for you, but you are saving lives.”
The 7th Annual Community Wide Blood Drive kicked off a few days early this summer, on July 29 through August 11, 2013 to insure sufficient local blood supplies during the summer months. “We always see a decline in our blood supply during the summer months, as donors are on vacation, causing a shortage in our blood inventory,” said Account Manager, Tracy Hunter. Thanks to sponsors San Joaquin Community Hospital and Kaiser Permanente, donors at the blood bank and on all mobiles were entered to win a Grand Prize Disney Vacation, as well as one of the thirteen $100 gasoline cards offered each day to a luck winner.
The Community Wide Blood Drive kicked off Monday, July 29, 2013 with a 13 hour mobile blood drive at 22nd and L Streets sponsored by KGET TV 17 from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm. Clear Channel Radio provided a live remote from the location, and The Bakersfield Californian provided a kick off advertisement. Early bird donors enjoyed delicious cookies from Fat Bottom Cookies that a generous blood donor donated. La Rosa Fruit Bars were distributed throughout the day and donors also enjoyed Port of Subs sandwiches for lunch. There were a total of 302 donors, 89 of those were new, and 230 units of blood were collected. What an awesome day!
Ongoing promotion of the blood drive was provided by KGET, Clear Channel’s La Preciosa, and additional advertising in The Bakersfield Californian. California Pizza Kitchen provided fantastic food for the Kaiser Permanente Social scheduled as part of the drive. The daily gas card drawings were a hit again, and the flexible Disney Vacation, which could be customized by the winner, was certainly an attraction for donors. The winning prize donors are pictured below.
It is the vital partnerships that allow us to encourage and support new and existing donors which made the Community Wide Blood Drive a tremendous success again this year! The blood drive as a whole registered 2,165 donors, 413 of them new to blood donation, and resulted in 1,693 actual pints collected. Thanks to everyone who made the event such a resounding success.
Through determination and dedication, Virginia “Ginger” Mello has donated over 320 platelets. Even though Ginger balances family life and being a member of numerous organizations in Kern County, nothing stops her from finding time to donate platelets.
Ginger began donating right after September 11, 2001. “There was an urgent need and blood does not last forever, I wanted to make a difference,” said Ginger. After a couple of donations, a nurse had told her she would be a perfect platelet donor. She also learned that having AB+ as a blood type, makes her an ideal candidate for platelet and plasma donation. Virginia did not hesitate to transition to platelet donations. “When you’re a mom, you go through circumstances where you gain courage and strength to do anything and at the end of the day, I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life,” explained Ginger. Ginger insisted in giving double platelets, even with limited knowledge of the procedure. Ginger had to stop giving doubles because of reactions and now she is facing arthritis. Ginger gets extra help from our staff to help her squeeze; “As long as I am able to donate, nothing will stop me.”
This courage and strength mirrors her personal life. Ginger takes care of her 93 year old mother, children, grandchildren and her husband. When her husband retired at the age of 55, she went back to school in case she needed to support her family. Her family has gone through numerous tribulations, but through her determination, she has overcome those obstacles.
When Ginger is not donating, she is a commissioner of the Local Formation Agency Commission, a treasurer of the local chapter of the Association to Retired Public Employees, and she is the secretary at Retired Employees of Kern County. She enjoys attending the sporting events of her four grandchildren. Virginia encourages others to donate: “knowing you might need help someday, give back and help someone that is in need today.”
The summer months are challenging for blood banks as donors change their routines, take vacations, and are involved with outdoor activities and donating blood is not always top of mind. New partnerships with local businesses and organizations within our community helps alleviate the blood shortage over the summer months.
Houchin Community Blood Bank is proud to partner with Ashley Furniture HomeStore® on Saturday, July 27 for a blood drive. Ashley Furniture HomeStore® is holding a mobile drive at their store just east of Calloway on Rosedale Highway from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and at the Truxtun Donor Center from 7 am to 1 pm. Donors donating at the mobile drive will receive a free sno-cone from Standard Middle School Warrior Band and Color Guard and a coupon for a 99 cent large drink from Sonic. All donors at that mobile, and the Truxtun Donor Center, will be able to enter a drawing for a leather power recliner valued at $600! Each donor will also receive a coupon for a free Ashley-Sleep Memory Foam pillow which must be presented in the store to get the pillow. The coupon is also good for 20% off any Ashley Furniture HomeStore® purchase.
Ashley Furniture has always had a proud sense of its history and the wisdom to know what made it great. Ashley Furniture continues to strive toward enhancing its communities by working to improve their infrastructure and community services. Locally owned Ashley Furniture HomeStore® retail furniture stores are extremely active in their communities supporting many nonprofit organizations. ”Our employees and owner support the Bakersfield community because we live here, work here and know there is a need all over Kern county for blood,” said John Hohler, Sales Manager of Ashley Furniture HomeStore® in Bakersfield. For more information about eligibility or to make an appointment, call 661-616-2505 or click here. Walk-ins are also welcome at both the mobile and Truxtun drive.