By Katie Demeria
The American Red Cross is in urgent need of blood.
The organization has reported a national shortage of donations this year due to weather-related blood drive cancellations.
According to a news release, more than 600 blood drives were canceled in January because of winter storms or cold temperatures, meaning nearly 20,000 donations have gone uncollected.
The Shenandoah Valley is within the Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region in which 30 blood drives were cancelled last month.
The Greater Alleghenies Region communications manager Cheryl Gergely said the Red Cross is working to spread awareness in order to make up for lost donations.
"If it's safe to travel in the area where you live, please come out and donate blood," Gergely said. "We need to collect every day -- there are patients who use that blood every day."
The Shenandoah County government is hosting a Valentine's Day blood drive in an effort to encourage locals to celebrate the day by giving to others, according to organizer Chris Sherman.
"I've never personally had to depend on it, but I always try to think, if it were a family member, especially a child or grandchild, that needed blood, I'd want to know it's available," Sherman said.
The drive will take place at the Shenandoah County Government Center in Woodstock from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Donors are encouraged to sign up through the Red Cross website, but walk-ins are welcome, Sherman said.
Next week, the Toms Brook Fire Department will host its annual blood drive in honor of former member Harry F. Edge Jr., who passed away in February 2010.
The department has held a drive in Edge's memory every year since his death, said Patty Stickley, a member of the fire department's support staff.
"He was diagnosed with cancer, and he ended up using over 50 units of blood to help him through his battle," Stickley said. "While he was living, I asked him if he wouldn't mind us doing a blood drive in honor of him, and he said yes."
Stickley said she tries to hold the drive in February, the month Edge passed away, but in some years has had to push it back to March due to weather cancellations.
"It happens a lot, not always because of weather, sometimes because of flu or cold season," Stickley said. "But we always have it, even though we have to move it around."
The drive will take place at the Toms Brook Fire Department from 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Gergely said community blood drives like those hosted by the fire department and the Shenandoah County government are vital to providing blood to patients.
"We need to make sure we're collecting the blood that we need in order to supply the patients in the hospitals," she said.
Right now, she continued, O-negative, O-positive, B-negative, and A-negative are especially needed.
"And of course O-negative is the universal type, so that is always needed," she said.
A full description of donor eligibility is located on the Red Cross's website at www.redcrossblood.org. Those interested in registering to give blood can either do so through the website or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com