Four times a year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) swaps out tables and chairs in its largest conference room for beds and medical equipment brought in by the American Red Cross.

Mobile blood drives, like those BCBSNE hosts, account for the majority of donations the organization collects, Teri Vitallo, American Red Cross account manager, said. Convenience is a large factor.

“The average donor donates about two and a half times per year when they can actually donate about six times a year,” Vitallo said. “When companies host blood drives for us at their locations, we see donors are more willing to donate more often.”

BCBSNE has an average of 45 employees donate at each drive. In 2019, the company’s employees donated 227 pints of blood in total, making BCBSNE the eighth-ranked corporation in Omaha and Lincoln for donations.

“We’re proud of our commitment to support the organization,” Jeanne Jones, a BCBSNE employee and American Red Cross board member, said. “I’m looking forward to seeing our continued impact in 2020.”

Each blood donation can help save up to three lives, Vitallo said. Donations are split into platelets, plasma and red blood cells, which serve different purposes in helping patients.

Vitallo said many people become regular donors after needing blood for themselves or a family member. Others give because they enjoy helping out.

“I usually ask people, ‘hey is there a reason why you donate?’” Jones said. “I’m always amazed by people who say, ‘you know what? This is just something I can do. Why wouldn’t I help somebody who needs it?’”

BCBSNE recently held its first blood drive for 2020. Kate Grafel, a BCBSNE employee, is a regular donor and has her own reason for participating.

“Donating blood has been important to me ever since my grandpa organized blood drives in the small town in Kansas where I grew up,” Grafel said. “He really wanted to do something good for the community.”

Grafel credits the onsite drives with ensuring she donates.

“It really helps that we have the drives here,” she said. “It’s so convenient.”

To find a blood drive near you, visit the American Red Cross website.

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