In 1964, the students of Ferrum College were issued a challenge: if 200 students donated blood in a given week, Friday and Saturday classes for that week would be cancelled.
The prospect of a weekend off was enough to get Donald Williams “past the fear,” he said, and that was the week he gave blood for the first time. He’s continued that generosity for the past 50 years, and in February, he was awarded his “20 gallon pin,” he said, meaning he’s donated blood at least 160 times.
Last Friday, Williams added one more donation to his half-century tally, along with 42 other good Samaritans who visited a Red Cross event in the basement of Floyd United Methodist Church. Williams, who organizes the “canteen” of food and drinks for volunteers while they rest after donation, praised the high quality of volunteers and provisions at the event. “I grew up in a big city and could get out [of work] four hours if I donated,” he said. “But they had stale cookies, nothing like this. We have the best canteen in the Roanoke area.”
Priscilla Whitlock, a volunteer from the Presbyterian Church of Floyd that stocked the canteen, overheard Williams and seconded his assertion: “You’ve got to say we’ve got the best cooks in Floyd County.”
Blood drives are held every two months in the FUMC basement, largely thanks to the efforts of Iletta Slusher, who is the local coordinator with the Red Cross. “I’m responsible for getting the volunteers to help with the blood drive,” Slusher said, but wouldn’t give herself too much credit. “We appreciate our donors so much [and] we appreciate the church letting us use their facilities.”
On Friday, 43 people donated 44 units of blood to the Red Cross—an amount that Slusher says will help more than 100 people in need. Slusher knows personally that blood is a precious resource often in high demand—this is what initally motivated her to get more involved with the Red Cross. “My husband had cancer and required so much blood, I just wanted to help,” she explained.
While each blood drive takes place at FUMC, Williams said coordinating the drives is a group effort involving many area churches and organizations. Everyone from the Stonewall Home and Garden Club to the VFW and American Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary has supplied volunteers, he said, and various local merchants have donated beverages for the canteen. “I’m just so thankful for everybody,” said Slusher. “They’re so dedicated.”
The next blood drive will be held Friday, Oct. 4 at Floyd United Methodist Church from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.