ANNA, Ohio - Giving blood is a common bond in Shelby County, where one out of four people you meet on the street is a blood donor. The tradition is often passed down from one generation to the next, turning blood drives into "family reunions." A good example was the gathering of three generations of the Sanders family Tuesday, May 20 at St. Jacob Lutheran Church in Anna.
It was part of a remarkable day for blood donations across Shelby County, with three separate Community Blood Center (CBC) blood drives that totaled 176 blood donations.
Bernard and Elfrieda Sanders live in Fort Loramie and traveled to their daughter Kathleen's neighborhood blood drive in Anna. "We usually go to Loramie (St. Michael's Hall blood drive) and Russia (St. Remy's blood drive) but it worked out by coming here everybody could be together," said Elfrieda. "We try to donate six times a year. Not often together, but our granddaughter Kelli was home from college."
Granddaughter Kelli Ehemann, a 19-year-old Anna High School graduate, is home for the summer after her freshmen year at Ohio State University, where she is a pre-dentistry student. She started donating at age 16, before her high school hosted a student blood drive.
"I donated for the first time at the Moose Lodge in Sidney," she said. "When I finally turned 16 I wanted to give blood." She's wanted to be a dentist even longer. "When I was three years old my sister kicked my two front teeth out," she said. "After that traumatic experience I've pretty much been interested in dental school!"
Kelli has made five lifetime blood donations and her brother Robert, a junior at AHS, already has four lifetime donations. Kelli served on student council and suggested they sponsor the school's first student blood drive. "She was the reason it happened," said CBC Shelby County Account Representative Kathy Pleiman. "Kelli was very passionate about it and spearheaded the student blood drive."
Her inspiration goes back two generations. Kelli and Robert's grandfather "Bud" Sanders has 133 lifetime blood donations and their grandmother Elfrieda Sanders has 103. Their uncle Kevin Sanders has 110 donations and their uncle Nick Sanders has 63. Kelli's mom Kathleen Ehemann made her milestone 50th lifetime donation at the St. Jacob blood drive.
"I didn't know it was 50 today," Kathleen said. "I'm always glad when I can give, I'm always excited." A minor disappointment was not being able to donate alongside her mother and daughter. Both Elfrieda and Kelli were deferred from donating on this visit for low iron. "I was just hoping I could give - I'm always the one that has trouble with iron," said Kathleen. "But I'm glad it worked out."
The Sanders are just part of Shelby County's widespread commitment to helping others through blood donations. In 2013 Shelby County donors supported 122 mobile blood drives and donated 6,395 units of life-saving blood products.
Shelby County ranks only 9th in population among the 15 counties in CBC's service area, yet is third in total number of registered donors. Of those eligible by age to donate, one out of four people in Shelby County are blood donors, the highest percentage among CBC's 15 counties.
"I usually donate in Sidney," said Susan Lukey from Botkins. She chatted with Kathleen in the Donor Café after making her 117th lifetime donation. "I donate on the eight-week schedule, so I go wherever the rotation lands."
They snacked on shredded chicken and ham sandwiches and cookies, courtesy of St. Jacob volunteers. "We have a team here at church," said blood drive coordinator Jill Brandt. "You volunteer to bake up cookies for anything you sign up for. We've got a lot of nice cookies, and they're all homemade!"
The St. Jacob blood drive wrapped up the day with 68 registrations and 55 donations for 112% of goal. Earlier in the day, the nearby Honda Manufacturing Inc. blood drive registered 115 donors and collected 95 donations for 107% of goal. On the same day in Sidney Emerson Climate Technologies held a blood drive that added 31 registrations and 26 donations for 100% of goal.
It was a day of 175 donations, three generations of donors, and a single county best known as the home for blood donors.