American Red Cross, LDS and Catholic churches unite in Bay Area blood drive

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 3 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

(Left to right) Lamb of God oratorio composer Rob Gardner, LDS Area Seventy Robert Packer, American Red Cross Bay Area Director Justin Mueller, former Northern California LDS Church Public Affairs Director Don Eaton, Catholic Diocese of Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, Oakland Stake President Dean Criddle and American Red Cross Northern California CEO Jeff Meyer at the performance April 24 at the Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, Calif. The previously mentioned were all involved in the founding of the Interfaith Community Blood Drive, which is believed to be the largest church-organized blood drive in American Red Cross history.

John Muir

The uniting of the LDS and Roman Catholic churches to help the American Red Cross raise blood units in the Bay Area is a unique first-time occasion.

The Interfaith Community Blood Drive is so unique, in fact, that Jeff Meyer, the CEO of Red Cross operations in northern California, said he cannot remember another occasion in which the two churches and other denominations in the region have ever before combined for such an enterprise.

Though the effort provided a mere portion of the 6 million units of blood the American Red Cross collects annually, Meyer had been touched by the seven-month concordance of the two religions to assist in the temporal saving of lives.

"It's amazing to me to see this is actually occurring," Meyer said. "When I'm in a Catholic church seeing an LDS symphony perform and then I'm seeing a Catholic cardinal with elders from the LDS Church sitting next to him, it hit home to me, wondering where else this sort of thing would occur. It blew me away that other differences would be put aside for the common goal of saving lives."

Meyer says the blood drive is believed to be the largest single blood drive in the history of the region, as well as the largest church-organized blood drive in the national organization's history.

The program, which maintained a 1,500-unit goal for a normally slow July nationally, resulted in a donation of 1,284 units for the month, 899 which came from donations made in facilities located in 14 LDS stakes, including Walnut Creek, Moraga, Oakland and other chapels throughout the Bay Area. The Interfaith Blood Drive also raised 200 units last December and 36 this past April, a total that will count toward July's tally, said Justin Mueller, American Red Cross Bay Area regional director.

The chapels are among 62 mobile locations that include regional medical centers and a variety of other Christian and Islam places of worship. Don Eaton, the former LDS Church public affairs director for the Bay Area, said the region typically faces nearly a 40,000 unit deficit per year, with a total donation count of 92,000.

The neighboring churches exhibited their camaraderie this past Easter at the "Lamb of God" oratorio at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, where the blood drive was announced. LDS composer Rob Gardner and the Temple Hill Symphony and Orchestra, an LDS group, performed to prelude the announcement.

In a late-month push, the Interfaith Blood Drive participated with the American Red Cross across the country in promising a Baskin Robbins coupon for every donation made.

The Red Cross' northern California branch nearly reached its July unit collection goal of 7,660 with 7,486 units. The entire West Division, which includes southern California, the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, as well as the Lewis and Clark region, which includes Montana, Idaho, parts of Nevada and Utah, aims to receive 86,000 units per month.

"We went into this not necessarily looking for a significant increase, but for an adequate July," said Mueller, while explaining that the organization could at least count on one-fifth of its monthly allotment through the interfaith enterprise this year. "But for what the mobile team collects, it will be more than previous years. Now we just need to be able be more efficient and ensure that in the months before and after July, we're also able to continue to collect so we can continue that adequate supply."

July's Bay Area operation is a representation of the humanitarian work the LDS Church also provides in other areas of the American Red Cross, including the West Division.

Julia Wulf, chief executive officer of the Lewis and Clark Blood Services region, said that the church's involvement in the area has been the primary reason why the region was able to garner 221,230 units in fiscal year 2010, exceeding its previous goal of 217,000. She said that 24.3 percent of all annual donated units in the region came from LDS facilities during those 12 months.

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