March Featured Donor of the Month

photo 1 (16)Growing up, Kevin Mulhause was like any typical teenager where everything was about him. Until one life changing incident triggered him to make a change. Now, Kevin is the 8th highest platelet donor at Houchin.

In the early 1990s, Kevin received a call from his aunt that her son needed blood products because he had leukemia. Without any hesitation, Kevin stopped by the blood bank to make a lifesaving donation. “At the time I wanted to help, but I was little naive about the process. But, Houchin staff educated me on the importance of donating, which made me commit,” said Kevin.

photo 2 (11)Kevin donated whole blood every 8 weeks until one day, one of our staff members asked him if he could donate platelets because of his great veins! “If I can maximize my donation with one visit then why not, especially knowing, platelets only have a 5 day shelf life,” said Kevin. Now, Kevin has donated 545 platelets and 10 pints of whole blood!

Kevin continues to donate in honor of his mom who died 10 years ago from cancer, and for all the survivor stories he has witnessed at each platelet dinner he attends. Besides being an avid donor, he enjoys racing remote control cars in his spare time. Kevin encourages others to donate because, “someone will always need blood products and without donors, we won’t be giving patients a fighting chance to survive.”


February Donor Julian Bernard

JB - gallon clubThrough hard work and dedication, Julian Bernard has achieved his one gallon milestone. Julian has been donating blood every chance he could since he was old enough. Julian has been in the Air Force Reserves for three years and he knows how critical it is to have a safe and reliable blood supply. “Every time there was a blood drive, he was there”, said his wife Tenina. So, far Julian has only missed one blood drive because he was in Mississippi with the Air Force.

Julian donated regularly while serving in the Air Force, and first donated with Houchin at Rio Tinto Minerals, while working there.  He now donates at Mojave Air and Spaceport, where he works for Scaled Composites.  “He knows how critical his O- blood is for our blood supply and comes in with a smile on his face and brings along a group of his coworkers”, said Christina Scrivner, our East Kern Community Development Account Manager. Julian hopes his example and encouragement will help others understand the importance of donating blood since the need never ends. He is proud to be in our one gallon club and plans to reach more milestones. He has already signed up for the next blood drive in Mojave to get started on gallon number two!

January Donor of the Month

IMG_0831On December 12, 2014 Charles “Chuck” Zwartendyk received his 25 gallon license plate, a moment he thought would not be possible because of his current circumstance. He was recently disappointed to hear from his doctor that he had to go on a blood thinner medication, just prior to earning his 25 gallon license plate.

But through the season of giving, Chuck was able to achieve this great milestone. Chuck’s son-in law, Mic Hall and other family members surprised him for his birthday and brought Chuck to our Truxtun Donor Center to give blood in an effort to make up the remaining 4 pints shy of achieving his goal. “We all wanted to do something special for Chuck because he has been giving back to the community for many decades now and so we thought this would be the perfect gift to give him,” expressed Mic. 23 members of his family, including grandchildren and great grandchildren showed up for this special day. Eight family members attempted to donate, resulting in 7 actual donations!  Chuck was so proud to celebrate this achievement today with the people he love and care about.

IMG_0830Chuck has been a dedicated donor ever since he got drafted in the Navy. When he got out of the service in 1945, he continued giving blood at Houchin’s first building before the G street Blood Center ever opened. He has been donating for more than 50 years with the exception of taking time off for knee and hip surgery. Chuck is motivated to give blood because “somebody has to do it.  It might as well be me.”

Chuck spent his career in welding, pipe fitting and pump repair working in the Oil and Agriculture Industry. Chuck is a Past Master and former Secretary for the local Masonic Lodge and was instrumental with initiating the Masons Group of blood donors years ago. Now, he enjoys spending time with family and on November 18, 2014 Chuck celebrated his 90th birthday!

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December Donors: The Kimm Family

GeAnn, Glenn, Gardner, and Gregory Kimm - 2014

GeAnn, Glenn, Gardner, and Gregory Kimm – 2014

Many, many of our blood donors remember the late George Kimm, our long-time Tuesday morning canteen volunteer at the Truxtun Donor Center.  Lots of donors came in on Tuesdays just to chat with George and be greeted by his smile. He was also our leading blood donor for years. Donors still ask about his family, so we are featuring his children as our December blood donors.

His three sons Gregory, Gardner and Glenn, and daughter GeAnn, came in together the day after Thanksgiving to donate and visit with us in the canteen named in honor of George.  This is the second year they have come in the day after Thanksgiving as a family to donate, although they say it is not a tradition.

Gregory, Gardner, Glenn, and GeAnn Kimm in 2013

Gregory, Gardner, Glenn and GeAnn Kimm – 2013

Like their father, the Kimm siblings are a very unassuming group. The sons all live out of town, and shared that the snacks are not as good at their home blood banks.  GeAnn is a regular at some of our mobile drives and a three gallon club member.

We always appreciate seeing the Kimms, as it brings back great memories of our years with George. It was good to visit with them in the George Kimm, Jr. Canteen and recall how George always had the donuts and the snack trays well filled.

October 2014 Donor of the Month


Amanda and Ashley with their kids along with their mom Gloria Saffell.

Gloria, Ashley and Amanda Saffell started giving blood just a few short years ago, but between the three of them, they will have given 5 gallons before this year is up!  It all started when the youngest Ashley donated at her High School in Kern River Valley.  From then on, Ashley was a dedicated blood donor. One day, Ashley showed up at the community drive in Kern River Valley to donate, and brought her mom, Gloria.  After they went to their local Burger King to redeem the free Whopper coupon from the Houchin blood drive, they called up Amanda.  They all laughed as they recalled that conversation, “Free Whopper! I’m so there!”, said Amanda.

So naturally a competition emerged!  Currently, Gloria is in the lead, assisted by the fact that both girls have had a baby since they began donating (donors are not eligible while pregnant, or until released by their doctor).  Both Ashley and Amanda returned after their babies were born, and have donated more than a gallon, while Gloria’s next donation will make 2 gallons for her.

They all agreed that their motivation for donating is the friends and family that have needed blood products because of car accidents, and Gloria’s husband who suffers from a brain tumor. They calculated that between the three of them, they are responsible for bringing at least 10 new donors to the Kern River Valley Blood Drives!  Amanda summed it up well, “it’s a very valid charity that doesn’t cost anything, but is a great way to give back!”


September Donor-Sky Plotner

IMG_0159Many 15 year old’s think about getting their driver’s license when they turn 16, but Sky Plotner was thinking about saving a life. She began to talk blood donation over with her mother. “I told my mother what it was, what the qualifications were, and that I needed her permission.” On her 16th birthday she began to donate blood at Liberty High School.

Sky is a member of our Gallon Grad Club.The letter of recommendation that students get when they reach the gallon mark can be used for school and job applications. “I found it helpful when applying to schools for the fall, Sky says.”

Sky is interested in doing something more to save lives. She has her heart set on doing automate donation on our Trima machines so she can donate platelets for cancer patients and plasma for burn victims. She likes the fact she will be able to donate these products more often throughout the year. “It might take a little longer but, it’s a little extra something that I can do to help someone’s life.”

She donates on a regular basis because, “it makes me happy to save someone’s life.” When it comes to donating, “I believe that if you are eligible you should get in and donate.” Although Sky donates on a regular basis, she learned something new recently. “I always thought that the blood went from me straight to the other person. I didn’t know that so much went into providing the blood for someone else.”

In her spare time, Sky likes to read mysteries, watch her favorite shows on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and travel to Arizona to visit family. We are proud to have this fine young lady as a dedicated donor!

August 2014 Donor of the Month

John BlacksillJohn Blacksill works the graveyard shift at Nestle Dreyer’s Ice Cream Co. but does not use that as an excuse for him not to come in and donate. “There are no excuses, if you really want to do something, then you will always find a way,” said John. He is especially excited that we have a new special program for AB donors.  ” I use to donate platelets and plasma through the TRIMA system however, it took me 2 and half hours to finish my donation. But with the new AB plasma only program, it only takes me 45 minutes,” said John. With the extra time he gained, John is able to spend more time with his family and to sleep.

John donated a gallon of whole blood before converting to TRIMA. He began donating in college because “it was for the betterment of my community. There is a daily need to make a lifesaving donation so that others who need it, can have a second chance,” said John.

photo 5When John found out he was a good candidate for plasma, he was enthusiastic to know his AB platelets and plasma are universally accepted by patients of all blood types. His is the type most often ordered by doctors for fragile newborns and other trauma situations. “Knowing that the population doesn’t necessarily need my blood donation that often, the new plasma program has given AB donors like myself, a new reason to give and help even more patients,” explained John. 

Besides donating, John enjoys creating stained glass windows, spending time with his family and watching football. He especially enjoys watching his son play football for San Jose State. John encourages others to donate, ” it’s a good way to be a service to others and it doesn’t take a long time.”

July 2014 Donor of the Month

ElizabeIMG_3892th Slaydon was the first in her family to donate when she was 16 years old in Oklahoma. She has donated a gallon of whole blood.  She asked our staff if there was anything else that she could do besides whole blood because she felt like she wasn’t doing enough. That was when she learned about platelet donations. Having had a grandfather who battled cancer, she knew first hand the importance of the platelets. “It began with singles, doubles, now they have me doing triples!” She has now donated 63 platelets.

Elizabeth makes sure to tell everyone she knows about donating with Houchin. She made her mother so enthusiastic about donating that she convinced her employer to host a mobile blood drive.

She was excited to have her second child and to begin donating again. After she gave birth, she began to have internal bleeding and needed a blood transfusion. She used 2 units of blood. Because of her complications Elizabeth had to wait to donate, “I was devastated when I found out I had to wait another year to donate blood.”

Her 10 year old daughter was diagnosed with a heart problem last August while her son was diagnosed with a heart murmur a few months later. She continues to donate through it all. Elizabeth finds: “it’s therapeutic and I can relax while I helpIMG_8366

Elizabeth enjoys to read and spend time with her kids. Donating blood and platelets  “It’s
my purpose in my community, it replenishes itself, so why not donate?”

June 2014 Donors of the Month

photo 4 (13)There is nothing more important to Eric Metcalf than being the best father he can be to his children. When son Lucas achieved his one gallon milestone, Eric was excited that he was able to share this special moment with his son.

Eric began donating blood when his roommate in San Jose encouraged him: “I was healthy and it is an easy way to give back to your community,” explained Eric. Eric always wanted to donate because when he was 13 years old his grandfather had a heart attack and needed heart surgery. “At that time I realized that because of blood donors, they were able to extend my grandfather’s life, and I wanted to do the same for others in need,” says Eric.

Eric has donated 3 gallons of whole blood but wishes he could have found more time to donate. When Lucas turned 16 he decided to accompany his son at each donation. “As a parent, it is the right thing to do to support your children. I wanted to be a model of great behavior to my children and this was also a great opportunity to bond with my son,” said Eric. Lucas wanted to donate as soon as he turned 16 because his father inspired him to give back to the community, “my dad works hard and gives 100% in everything he does and besides donating blood, he volunteers at church and I want to follow in his footsteps,” explained Lucas. Eric and Lucas have made their blood donation into a father-son routine, “I encourage others to bring a friend or family member when they donate because it gives you more commitment and you get to share this lifesaving experience with someone you care about,” says Eric.

Besides donating, Lucas enjoys playing video games and he recently graduated high school. Lucas plans to go to Taft College to become a computer engineer. Eric enjoys spending quality time with his family and volunteering at First United Methodist Church. Eric’s goal is to encourage as many people as possible to donate, “I believe in this cause– people don’t realize the importance until they get affected, but people need to make time to give because it is the people who donated yesterday that saved a person’s life today.”

May 2014 Featured Donor of the Month

Nikki photoIn the past four years, “flight or fight” is the motto that Nikki Cross instilled in her two daughters in fighting numerous hurdles. Life became a whirlwind experience for Nikki Cross and her family. She has been in and out of hospitals with her two daughters Kayla and Kylee. When everything seemed to be spiraling downhill, Nikki along with her husband Kreg stayed strong for their two daughters.

Nikki struggled with her iron, so she was always envious when Kreg would go to the blood bank and donate. But when she found out her 12 year old daughter, Kylee, needed to undergo a scoliosis operation and needed to donate two pints of her own blood to use during her surgery, Nikki did what any mother would do, to be by her daughter’s side. Nikki wanted to make sure she was able to donate with Kylee and so she researched and found a way to alter her diet so she could pass her iron test. At Kylee’s second donation, Nikki was able to donate for the first time. Nikki wanted to show her daughters to never give up, “if you really want to help, you need to be persistent and alter your lifestyle because most things are fixable.”

Kayla, Nikki and Kylee at our Hearts United Blood Drive.

These past four years, Nikki found out she had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, as does her 16 year old daughter, Kayla.  Kayla also had a bone tumor last September.  Kylee underwent a scoliosis surgery, and both Kayla and Kylee went through numerous reconstructive hip surgeries. In December, Nikki was diagnosed with diabetes, but she continued to donate. Nikki stayed strong for her daughters, “it has been a journey, but I tell my girls we can’t dwell on these experiences but what we can do is turn it around to help others.”

Now Nikki plans on becoming a platelet donor because she learned the vital need for platelet donations. She also added, “Kayla plans on donating blood in September and Kylee will be celebrating the one year anniversary of her blood drive on June 30,” said Nikki. Click here to find out more about Kylee’s 2nd Annual Scoliosis Strong Blood Drive.

Nikki enjoys spending time with her family and their 48 animals. She also enjoys watching Nascar racing.  Every March they all travel to Fontana, CA to watch Nascar live. Nikki encourages others to donate, “it is important to give back and to help those who are in need. Giving money can’t save someone’s life in the hospital, but by donating blood or platelets you are giving that person another chance at life.”