April 2014 Featured Donor of the Month

photo 3 (14)Well-known for his can do attitude, Tim Kounter is a dedicated blood donor who recently hit his 4 gallon mark. Before reaching this milestone, Tim experienced a few health difficulties. But Tim was determined to become a healthy donor once again.

Tim started donating because he was inspired by Greg Gallion, CEO and President of Houchin Community Blood Bank’s moving speech about the importance of blood donation during an Executives’ Association of Kern County (EAKC) meeting. “I was inspired by hearing members in EAKC talk about their life changing experience through blood donation. And knowing that I am healthy, why not give my lifesaving donation,” explained Tim. Tim had to stop donating for two years because of valley fever, but once he passed his two year mark, he started donating again. “Once you start donating, you can’t stop especially seeing the 10 gallon photos on the wall makes you appreciate how persistent they were to donate.”

Timmy and Jake Kounter

Timmy and Jake Kounter are blood donors thanks to dad Tim’s influence.

Recently, Tim had to put a pause donating again because he underwent a skin cancer treatment. Tim kept coming back to the blood bank to see when he could start donating again. “At first it was only going to be only a two week pause but then it later turned into a 3 month waiting period,” said Tim. Even though the waiting process was long and uncertain, Tim was grateful he was able to donate again and he reach his 4 gallon mark as well. Through all these tribulations, Tim became a true role model for his children as a blood donor, and now they are donors as well.

When Tim is not donating, he enjoys playing tennis with his children and is part of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Tim encourages others to donate because “people need it and not everyone is eligible to donate, so every time I look at the pre-donation booklet you see the reasons why people can’t donate and this inspires me to continue to give.”



March 2014 Featured Donor of the Month

IMG_1861Well-known for his enthusiastic personality and giving heart, Bob Foreman is a formidable blood donor. He received his 26 gallon license plate while donating at the Taft community blood drive on February 4, 2014. Bob has been a resident of Taft since 1948 and is well-recognized in his community.  When he received his license plate, all the media from Taft captured the moment!

Bob is admired in Taft because he is known for his compassionate nature and ambitious personality. When Bob was 23, he was drafted to the military and the army required military personnel to donate blood. “I never had the opportunity to donate blood because there weren’t any blood drives in Taft and donating in the military made me realize the need for blood donors,” explained Bob.  When Bob was in Korea, he helped support an orphanage because he witnessed the tribulations of the children that lost their parents during the war, “I witnessed innocent lives suffering and I wanted to help make a positive impact in their lives.”

photo 3 (13)Bob was encouraged to donate again when his boss told him there was a  great need for blood in Kern County. Without skipping a heartbeat, he went to the blood bank to donate. Now, Bob is a well-known advocate for the blood bank. Every morning at 5 am, he stops by Foster’s Donuts in Taft, to converse with locals meet new people. He loves to discuss the need for blood donations. “I wish more people donated blood because it is always needed.  That is why any opportunity I get, I encourage others to donate.”

photo 2 (25)Bob is a jack of all trades: he enjoys photography, volunteering at the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft, serving on the museum’s Board of Directors and for 30 years he volunteered with Kern County Sheriff Department’s Search and Rescue group. His photographs have been used in the museum’s brochure. Also, he used to be an avid motorcyclist and owned 27 motorcycles. Even though he still has a passion for motorcycling, Bob needed to take a break from riding because he wanted to put more energy into time with his wife, Sharon. “You always risk your life when you’re riding and I wanted to focus my time with my wife.” Bob encourages others to donate, “if you are healthy, why not give it a try? It is an honorable thing to do and there are not enough donors to meet the needs and demands of the community, so now I am going to work on hitting my 27th gallon.”

February 2014 Featured Donor of the Month

DSC_0103Krystal Gonzales is from Lamont, a small town just 9 miles southeast of downtown Bakersfield. She always wanted to make a difference in her little community, even at a young age. Krystal found that opportunity to serve when she learned we were having a mobile blood drive at Arvin High School. “I was only 16 at that time but I was eager to make this life-changing decision of saving someone’s life,” expressed Krystal. She thanks the blood bank for having a vital program like the “Give it Up” High School Challenge, ” because it encourages the youth to make a positive difference in the community.”

Krystal has been a dedicated donor ever since. Although she is only 27 years old, she has achieved 5 gallons. Krystal’s goal is to keep donating until she no longer can. “Achieving a gallon can be comparable to unlocking an achievement in a video game. It takes a lot of dedication and you work hard to reach the next achievement,” explained Krystal. Krystal also encouraged her mom to donate, ” Krystal kept explaining to me how easy the process was , and not only was I proud of her but, I also wanted to support her in this cause,” said Krystal’s mom.

DSC_0105Besides donating, Krystal enjoys painting and drawing cartoons where she is working on her Monster High collection. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She encourages others to donate: “donating blood gives you this euphoric feeling, knowing that the little bit of time it takes you to donate extends a lifetime of happiness to someone receiving your pint of blood.”

Donor of the Month James Goodmon

2013 James Goodmon

Dedicated, humble, understanding and respectful are just few words that many of our Donor Services staff members use to describe platelet donor James Goodmon. James has been donating at Houchin Community Blood Bank since 1972. He has donated 13 gallons of whole blood and remains a devoted platelet donor with 682 donations.

James saw the significance of donating blood when he worked for Mercy Hospital in the operating room, and when he was training to be part of the medical field service during the Vietnam War. “Being able to save someone’s life is a fulfillment in itself,” said James. He was a dedicated blood donor until one of our staff members had asked him if he could donate platelets.

James was one of the first donors to donate platelets at the blood bank. “The machines back then were different and platelet donors had both of their arms hooked which made the donation process a little more difficult,” explained James. During that time he had trouble donating because it was difficult to find the vein in his right arm, which caused James to put his platelet donations on hold. However, he continued to donate whole blood and plasma. “People go through obstacles, but you always have to find a way to keep going,” expressed James.

Fast forward to our improved TRIMA machines, and James was enthusiastic to donate platelets again, “with only a 5 day shelf life, there is always a need for platelets and I was more than eager to donate again,” said James.

James GoodmonJames has also encouraged his family to become donors. For example, his brother Richard has donated 270 platelets. “You never know when someone in your life may need it,” expressed James. This year, on Christmas Eve, his sister used 2 units of blood and James was thankful that a donor saved his sister’s life.

Besides donating, James enjoys spending time with his family, traveling to the coast and maintaining his 1956 Chevy 210 car. James also looks forward to renewing his vows with his wife every 10 years and they have been married for 45 years. James encourages others to donate, “the best part of being a donor is when you run into people who needed a lifesaving product and they notice your Houchin apparel or your license plate and they simply tell you, ‘thank you.’”

December 2013 Featured Donor of the Month

photo (68)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.”

photo (65)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.”


November Featured Donor of the Month

photo 4 (7)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 create a timeless piece out of his Houchin t-shirts so, he had  his Aunt Lucille create a quilt out  of 26 Houchin t-shirts.

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.”

October Featured Donor of the Month

Donna Jackson

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!

September Featured Donor of the Month

photo 1 (13)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.”

August 2013 Featured Donor of the Month

photo 2 (8)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.”

photo 1 (7)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.”

July 2013 Featured Donor of the Month

photo 1 (3)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 from BHS, 1 gallon senior, started donating on 16th bday

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.”