Startups

Why this tech-adjacent blood drive has been pumping strong for a decade

On Aug. 27, this blood drive will host another session at National Mechanics. Organizer and developer Reed Gustow tells us how the tech community has helped.

An American Red Cross Blood drive. (Photo by the American Red Cross on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.)

After spending 34 years working at the Red Cross, former numbers guy-turned-WordPress developer Reed Gustow knows how critical access to blood is. Specifically in Philly.

“This area imports a great deal of blood from other states because we have big hospitals,” said Gustow, a member of Old City coworking spot Indy Hall. “Only 38 percent of people are eligible to give blood at any given time, and only 10 percent of that group do.”

It was the desire to give back that drove him to start a small drive in 2008, to leverage the community at the nascent spot, then located at Strawberry Street.

“I told Alex [Hillman, Indy Hall cofounder] and before I finished the sentence he said, ‘Let’s do it,'” Gustow recalled.

Though 22 units were collected that day, the next drive got a boost when neighboring ecommerce company WebLinc and bar and restaurant National Mechanics came aboard.

“Hosting the blood drive is something we take great pride in, and it’s a no-brainer,” said Darren Hill, CEO and cofounder of WebLinc. “Over the years, we’ve had staff or their family members needing blood transfusions. Saving someone’s life is more important than what an employee might do in that hour. The only ‘work’ is to not open National Mechanics for a Monday lunch, and who wouldn’t do that to save lives?”

On Aug. 27, the blood drive — which to date has had over 800 donors and takes place about three times a year — is happening again at National Mechanics. The scene is this: Red Cross workers turn the famed karaoke spot into a war hospital of sorts, with beds and chairs set up to gather blood donations from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Volunteer

Gustow credits WebLinc staffers Ross Lieberman and Lou Perseghin with recruiting multiple arms to come in and donate blood. The it-takes-a-village approach has been key to the longevity of the drive, Gustow said.

“The biggest lesson is that this isn’t the work of one or two people,” Gustow said. “This needs to be a community effort.”

If you’ve never given blood before, here are some tips: Be sure to be particularly well hydrated and don’t donate on an empty stomach. Recent travel to areas where malaria is endemic or recent tattoos or piercings will make you unfit to donate.

(Here are more guidelines from the Red Cross.)

“Almost all of us know someone who’s had something terrible happen to them and needs to receive blood,” said Gustow, as if he’d given the pitch before. “Well, the only way it got there is because someone else donated it.”

Companies: Indy Hall

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