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Western New York observes Red Cross Month, honors Rochester’s founding heritage, and calls for volunteerism



Rochester, New York – Red Cross Month is observed in March when the organization thanks its volunteers and acts as a national reminder to volunteer and donate blood.

“There’s so many people who don’t, won’t, can’t, whatever,” said Marilyn Nickerson, a frequent donor. “I can, so I do.”

The entire company was confronted with an emergency scarcity of blood in January.

“Holiday season, winter months typically, we see a downfall,” said Michael Tedesco, the regional communications director for the Western New York region of the American Red Cross. “Rough flu season, another uptick in COVID, all kind of exacerbated that. Thankfully, a lot of people responded to the messaging we got out. We’re in a much better place now.”

According to the Red Cross, it provides 40% of the country’s blood supply, hence it is always in need of new donors.

“Blood is not something you can store in a warehouse for months and months and months,” explained Tedesco. “Some products have a shelf life as short as one week. Patient procedures go on all the time, so the need is always there.”

The Red Cross and Clara Barton, its founder, have special connections to the Rochester area. The first regional blood center opened its doors in 1948 in Rochester. The Red Cross’s Henrietta donation center now processes and tests all blood received in Upstate New York before sending it to hospitals around the state.

“In 1881 in May, the very first Red Cross chapter was established here in Dansville, just a stone’s throw from Rochester,” said Tedesco. “Clara Barton started to envision the Red Cross from her service on the battlefields of the Civil War. She traveled to Europe and saw the formation of the Red Cross internationally and brought that concept back to the U.S.”

Over a century later, the region is still recruiting and currently has about 1,700 volunteers spread across 27 counties. In addition, it offers a wide range of other services like swim instruction, CPR instruction, disaster aid, and military support.

“What we’re seeing these days is that our large-scale disasters are happening more frequently,” Tedesco said. “They’re more intense. They’re lasting for longer durations of time. We’ve seen that time and time again across this country, so the demands on volunteer resources increase too. It’s important that we continue to build up our volunteer ranks because, again, those are the people who help deliver relief to those who are suffering in times of disaster.”

He continued by saying that the area needs additional transportation experts to operate Red Cross vehicles, gather blood from blood drives and donation facilities, and process it before delivering it to hospitals. On, potential volunteers can search for any available positions. This week, an online auction was launched in the Western New York region. On Wednesday, it will throw an auction party at Radio Social. A portion of every pizza, bowling, and specialty beverage purchase will benefit the local Red Cross.