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.”
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!
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.”
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.”
Kody Saffell seems like an ordinary teenager, but his dedication to donating blood accomplished a very significant milestone. He became the youngest donor in our history to reach the one gallon mark!
It all began when Kody’s mom, Sally who is a two gallon donor, wanted to begin a friendly competition of who could save the most lives. On April 12, 2011, the day of Kody’s 16th birthday, he walked in to blood bank donate. “I had no plans and I figured donating blood is the best way to celebrate my birthday,” he said.
Just like other former Donor of the Month honorees, Kody comes in not expecting giveaways or entering into drawings, “I come in because it’s my scheduled appointment and I don’t need the extra incentives because saving a life is already a fulfillment in itself,” Kody explained. Kody donated at the blood bank instead of his high school because he did not want to miss any of his advanced placement classes. Now, Kody is only three donations shy of achieving his 2 gallons, and one step closer to catching up to his mom.
Kody Saffell received his 1 gallon license plate on 6/21/2012.
Besides achieving his first gallon, Kody came in first in his intermediate class for quad racing and recently graduated from Bakersfield High School. He plans to attend the University of California, Davis in the fall of 2013. He plans on becoming a veterinarian. Even when Kody goes to UC Davis, he plans on coming home on a monthly basis, in part to continue to donate. “Donating blood is a great way to give back to your community because someone will always need it.”
Mark Lewis is a familiar face to our donor services staff. His charismatic charm, dedication, and outgoing personality make him a memorable donor. He recently received his 500 platelet license plate and was sorry his good friend the late George Kimm Jr., was not able to see him hit that milestone.
Mark began donating thanks to his co-worker, “I always wanted to donate, but having someone ask you to make you realize the impact of one donation,” he said. While donating at the downtown donor center, he saw a sign for the need for platelet donors. Nurse Carlena explained the requirements for platelet donation, and examined his healthy veins. From that moment, Mark became a dedicated platelet donor.
Mark takes platelet donation seriously, and stays healthy, “I want to make sure I am able to give at least 20 times a year and give a good healthy product.” Mark continues to donate platelets to help those affected by major trauma accidents, cancer, leukemia, and heart surgeries. His donations have meant more to him because his wife had cancer, which stopped her from donating for 5 years. But once Verna was eligible and healthy again she continued to donate and she recently accomplished her 2 gallon mark. Mark influenced his wife Verna and son Brian to become donors when Brian became eligible to donate blood.
Mark also enjoys donating because he believes the nurses and people he meets at the blood bank are family. But, when Mark is not donating, he is the business manager for the Kern County Library. For Father’s day, 30-35 members of his family have a tradition of camping by the beach and have a cook-off for the best dish which Mark always wins. Mark encourages others to donate, “you can’t manufacture blood and there will always be a need, but if all donors can come in more than twice a year we can get rid of the shortage.”
Trish pictured by her vehicle with her 12 gallon license plate.
Mothers are the glue that holds a family together. Mothers are celebrated in the month of May, it is a fitting time to recognize Trish Devlin who is almost at her 13th gallon. More importantly, the only time she donates blood is with her family. Trish is not only a mother and a wife that is dedicated to taking care of her family, she also cares for others through her donations.
Trish began donating because she woke up to a radio plea from us on the day of her daughter Mary’s 4th birthday party. She did not have a reason to donate but felt, “I have always been healthy and I wanted to share my gift of good health to people who need it.” For her first donation, she took her two daughters, Christina and Mary, to the Truxtun Donor Center. From then on, every time Trish donated she would take them along. “Christina and Mary grew up going to the blood bank and every time we were there, the Houchin staff pampered my girls” said Trish.
At first, her husband John did not donate, because he did not like needles. But as time passed a phlebotomist told him, “if you did like needles, we wouldn’t like your blood.” At that point, and his wife’s dedication, John started donating and now he has 5 gallons to his credit. Since Christina and Mary saw their mom donating, it inspired them to become lifesavers too. They started donating as soon as they could, and now each has donated a gallon. As a family, the Devlins make it a routine to donate together because it’s a special moment they share.
Besides being a dedicated donor, Trish enjoys word puzzle games and spending time with her family. Every weekend they have game nights and a BBQ. Trish encourages others to donate, “you can’t manufacture blood and, if you’re in good health, then why not donate?”
April is National Volunteer Month, a great time to honor all of our volunteers for making time to donate. One volunteer in particular does not rely on our appointment reminders. Glenn Nakashima commits himself to show up every 56 days no matter what, and will soon receive his 23 gallon license plate.
Glen started donating because his father needed blood. He was working for the Kern County Fire Department and he asked his Captain where he could donate. This personal need led him to donate to the Kern County Fire Department group code at Houchin Community Blood Bank. From then on he continued to donate because he sees the difference donors make in someone’s life. “Houchin helped my dad, so why not help others?”
When he received his first license plate, Glenn felt very proud and attached it to his car right away. He believes each license plate represents a milestone achieved and the amount of lives you have saved. He also enjoys seeing our television commercials because, “you get to see the people you have saved, and hearing their stories make you feel good about yourself,” he added.
In his spare time, Glenn enjoys spending time with his six grandchildren, and is a member of the Chevrolet Limited of Bakersfield car club. He owns 1955 and 1956 Chevys. Glen deserves to be recognized as an exemplary community volunteer, not just for Houchin. He volunteers as a track official for Bakersfield College and local high schools, and on May 31, 2013 he will volunteer as a guardian in Honor Flight, an organization that sends veterans to Washington D.C. He encourages other community members to donate because “it’s easy, painless, and you meet wonderful people at Houchin Community Blood Bank.”
Tori Hernandez is not your average 18 year old. Tori began donating at the age of 17 to carry on the legacy of her great grandpa Anvil Petty. When we had an abundant supply of her blood type, instead of waiting for us to call her to donate again, she was eager to find another way to donate and so Tori began donating platelets: “When I learned that platelets help cancer patients, this gave me confidence to try TRIMA because even though I get squeamish when I see a needle, I picture all the children battling cancer who get poked on a daily basis.”
Pictured are Tori, Shana, and Caitlyn.
Cancer has played a major role in Tori’s life through numerous circumstances. Her great grandmother passed away from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and her great grandfather had lung cancer. Her best friend was only 15 years old when she passed away from Leukemia and her sister Caitlyn, is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 5. When she discovered thousands of children battling cancer through Facebook pages; Tori, Caitlyn, and her mother Shana, wanted to help make a difference in their lives
Here is a sample of a personalized paper heart that “Hearts of Hope” make.
In 2012, Tori, Caitlyn, and Shana, started an organization called Hearts of Hope. They create personalized handcrafted paper hearts and mail it to the children they encounter on Facebook that are battling cancer, “we wanted to give hope to those who are fighting cancer and a reminder to never give up,” she said.” Hearts of Hope has sent over 300 hearts around the world.
Tori is working on her Associates Degree in Photography at the Art Institute. She is part of “Team Poquito Mas” a Relay for Life team and St. Bladricks Foundation which raises money for a cure for childhood cancer. She is planning on becoming an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Ambassador to work with lawmakers to support policies to make cancer a top national priority. Tori encourages others to donate blood and platelets, “you don’t realize how many people need our help and it only takes a little effort to make a huge difference in someone’s life.”