What would entice housewife Sharon Wetten and college students Kelly Rochfort and Angela Murie to recline on couches for periods longer than an hour with large-bore needles sticking out of their arms?

The money. And, the fact the three are giving the gift that keeps on giving - much-needed plasma to be used in medicines to treat hemophiliacs and shock and trauma victims.On one particular afternoon recently, Wetten, 34, and Murie, 23, were making their first of two trips that week to Provo's Alpha Therapeutic Corp., 245 W. 100 North, to have their blood drawn, while Rochfort, 18, was making his first-ever visit to the center.

Wetten, Rochfort and Murie each would make $8 this trip, while Wetten's and Murie's second trip this week would garner each of them $10. However, it's not necessarily the money that keeps drawing them back.

"I'll probably come back here again," Rochfort said. "A friend asked me if I wanted to come in, and the fact that it's helping is nice."

"The money is why I started, but I saw these signs about how I could help others, and that made me feel better about it," Murie said.

"There's nothing illegal or immoral about it, plus it helps people, which I like to do," Wetten said. "Plus, it will help out with Christmas shopping."

Such stories are typical for donors at the center, and so are the numbers - between 70 percent to 80 percent of its donors are Brigham Young University students, who largely make up the center's 35 percent return business - according to Medical Director Chris Clanton. Clanton himself has been donating blood twice weekly for four years.

"A lot of our donors come in between eight to nine times a month, or two times weekly," he said. "During the summers, when some of the college students go home, our business goes down as much as 50 percent."

Such donors contrast sharply with the common belief that only transients and alcoholics donate to centers for quick cash - Clanton said.

"That's just not what happens at these centers," he said. "Another misconception people have is that it's wrong to pay people for their plasma. If we can offer money as an incentive to help people out, it's a good way to do it."

Alpha Therapeutic - which opened, fittingly enough, on Valentine's Day 1989 - does not compete with hospitals to supply whole blood to emergency centers, contrary to popular belief, he said. Instead it ships the plasma - after freezing it - to the main warehouse in Los Angeles, where it is used in testing and in the manufacture of medicines.

The center's phlebotomists - blood drawers - separate the plasma from its solid components while the blood is being drawn. Each plasma sample is carefully inventoried so the center can keep track it, especially should personnel find that a donor carries the HIV antibody (a sign that the donor has acquired immune deficiency syndrome), Clanton said.

In addition, donors are carefully screened for elimination factors - including exposure to hepatitis - that would make their plasma unusable. For example, on the first visit donors have their blood pressure, hematocrit and pulse checked, and on the second visit, donors are given a physical examination, he said.

"We're very careful with our donors, and that's why we track the samples we take at the center, for possible precautions."

Additionally, individuals weighing less than 110 pounds, pregnant women and some others are not allowed to donate their plasma. For more information on donating, visit Alpha Therapeutic or call 373-2600.