CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Weather-related blood drive cancellations in Charleston, South Carolina, last year could not stop a local U.S. Navy command from breaking records and receiving the American Red Cross 2019 Premier Partner Award.
Six hundred and thirty four pints of blood donated in 2019 by Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic capped 20 years of official American Red Cross records and exceeded donation numbers from 2017, when NIWC Atlantic received the national-level Premier Partner Award the first time.
“The American Red Cross is so proud of our partnership with NIWC Atlantic and its steadfast commitment to helping us save lives,” said Kate Lilly, spokeswoman for the Palmetto South Carolina Region of the American Red Cross. “The prestigious Premiere Partner Award signals above-and-beyond service to one’s community, and this local Navy command has consistently increased its giving in recent years, making 2019 a real milestone year.”
Navy leaders at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station said the totals are even more remarkable because weather-related issues cancelled two of the 22 blood drives last year.
“This is a tremendous achievement,” said NIWC Atlantic Commanding Officer Capt. Wes Sanders. “Even Hurricane Dorian’s impact on our area did not slow critical life-saving blood from reaching those in need. I’m proud of our people and proud of the American Red Cross, a vital humanitarian organization the U.S. Navy has supported in the Lowcountry for over 50 years now.”
In the Charleston area, the Navy’s civilian workforce has a strong tradition of donating blood that dates back to the 1970s, when it was known as the Naval Electronics Systems Command, or NAVALEX, said Lonnie Cowart, NIWC Atlantic’s Corporate Communications and Public Affairs director.
“Back then, people loved wearing their decorative Red Cross pins, which indicated how many gallons of blood you had donated over time,” said Cowart, who began working at the Charleston Naval Shipyard in 1977. “But giving back to the community has been paramount throughout our history, and receiving this important award shows that proud tradition continuing through today.”
Laura Zagby-Dye, national partnership manager for the American Red Cross and former blood services account manager for the American Red Cross – South Carolina Region, said that large donor base has been integral to Red Cross efforts in the Lowcountry over the years.
“NIWC Atlantic holds the most blood drives of any other organization in the tri-county area by far,” she said. “On top of that, year after year, so many generous donors show up. Combine that goodwill with command and volunteer support and it’s not hard to understand how NIWC Atlantic sets itself apart.”
In South Carolina, the Red Cross needs about 500 pints of blood every day to service hospitals. More than 4 million Americans would die each year without life-saving blood transfusions, according to the U.S. government-sponsored Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Zagby-Dye said the blood already on the shelves is the blood that saves lives when emergencies hit. Yet only 5 out of 100 people on average give blood in the United States.
“That’s why the need is constant, and I don’t think most people understand that,” she said.
Although the public generally thinks of car accidents, emergency surgeries or sudden traumas when it comes to those in need of blood, she said the majority of recipients fly under the radar.
“There is a whole host of patients who need blood as a medicine — all blood types,” Zagby-Dye said. “Sickle-cell anemia patients have a constant need, often averaging 100 units of blood per patient every year. Cancer patients receive blood transfusions. People with bleeding disorders or chronic immune deficiencies also need blood products. It’s so critical that the blood is there when they need it.”
One donation can help save as many as three lives, Zagby-Dye said.
“It’s an hour of your time, but a lifetime for the person who receives your blood,” she said.
NIWC Atlantic’s top civilian leader also commended the workforce for their continued contributions.
“The American Red Cross vision is to turn compassion into action,” said Peter C. Reddy, NIWC Atlantic executive director. “This command holds regular blood drives at three separate locations, temporarily excuses employees from work and actively encourages donating throughout the year. It’s no accident that we received this award. I believe our workforce feels proud to work in a place that promotes charity for their fellow Lowcountry neighbors, and they cheerfully roll up their sleeves each month to contribute to such a great cause.”
The American Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. It supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood supply.
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.