TOWAMENCIN -- Emergency blood drives are being held this week and next by the American Red Cross through Peter Powerhouse Foundation blood drives at Towamencin Mennonite Church.

The drives are scheduled for Monday through Saturday, March 23-28 and March 30-April 4.

“Nationally, we have seen more than 6,000 blood drives canceled, and in our region, that number is 376,” said Alana Mauger, spokesperson for the Red Cross regional district that includes Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

“We have close to 12,000 donations that have gone uncollected because of 376 canceled blood drives,” she said, “so the need is dire. It's an unprecedented blood shortage, both here in our region and across the country.”

About 600 blood donors are needed each day in the region to meet the daily needs, with additional donors needed to rebuild because of the cancellations, she said.

The blood supply and being a donor remain safe, she said.

“There is no evidence that this coronavirus or any other respiratory virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions,” Mauger said.

Additional safety measures have been implemented at the blood drives to make sure donors and the people staffing the collection are as safe as possible, she said.

“We are screening everyone's temperature when they walk in the door before they can proceed to the blood drive,” she said.

“If they have a fever, they will not be allowed into the blood drive,” she said. "That goes for staff and for donors and for anyone that comes in that door.”

Hand sanitizer is also being provided to the donors.

“We're asking them to use the hand sanitizer throughout the process as they move through the blood donation stations,” Mauger said.

Social distancing guidelines are being followed with donation beds at least six feet apart and attempts to keep people that far apart as much as possible, she said.

Common surfaces in the blood drive area are disinfected throughout the day, she said.

“We are asking people to please make an appointment so we are able to continue to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Mauger said.

If additional people show up that had not been prepared for, it can be hard to keep social distancing, she said.

“We've actually had to ask donors to wait in cars at other locations because we don't have the room to space them six feet apart,” Mauger said.

Appointments can be made online by going to the website and typing “Peter Powerhouse” into the area that asks for your zip code, she said.

The Peter Powerhouse Foundation was founded by Souderton Area High School 10th grader Peter Zucca, a pediatric cancer survivor. It works to improve the lives of children fighting cancer and to help support research to improve the lives of childhood cancer survivors, the organization's website says.

The blood drives that have been held by Peter Powerhouse Foundation every two months are some of the biggest in the region, Mauger said.

“We really thank them for all their support throughout the years,” she said.

A lot of blood transfusions were needed by Peter Zucca in his cancer battle, Dawn Zucca, his mother and Peter Powerhouse Foundation president, said.

“Peter had 51 units of blood before he was two years old,” she said. “That's why he runs blood drives.”

In Pennsylvania, 16 year-olds can be blood donors with their parent's permission, she said.

“He's not just a recipient now,” she said. “He's a donor himself.”

Because of the number of donors coming to the regularly-scheduled Peter Powerhouse Foundation blood drives, beginning in April, the drives will take place over two days instead of one, she said.

“We're getting so big, it's hard to get everybody on the schedule and run effectively,” she said.

The drives have received a lot of support from the Lansdale Chick-fil-A, which has generally provided gift cards to the donors for a free sandwich.

The gift cards cannot be distributed during the blood drive now taking place, but donors will receive credit for a free sandwich at the Lansdale location through the Chick-fil-A app, she said.

“They got special permission from Chick-fil-A corporate to be able to do that,” she said. 

Towamencin Mennonite Church is on Sumneytown Pike near the Lansdale exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

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