Bill Caron.JPG

Bill Caron is the CEO of MaineHealth.

PORTLAND, Maine — MaineHealth and the American Red Cross successfully completed a series of blood drives aimed at making up for donations uncollected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Distance Saves Lives” drive, conducted over 14 weeks, collected 1,474 pints of blood. This innovative response to the COVID-19 pandemic helped compensate for what the Red Cross calculates to be 328 canceled community blood drives due to COVID-19.

“I’m proud of our communities. I’m proud of our partners, our employees and the individual donors who helped our state’s healthcare system in a time of need. This is what is means to realize our vision of working together so our communities are the healthiest in America,” said Bill Caron, MaineHealth’s CEO, who came up with the idea for the drive.

With WEX at the helm, the following organizations recruited more than 1,500 donors in order to collect 1,474 pint of blood: Bowdoin College, Clark Insurance, Dead River Company, Dirigo Collective, Garrand Moehlenkamp, Geiger, Hannaford Supermarkets, IDEXX, L.L. Bean, Luke’s Lobster, Maine Beer Company, Masthead Maine, MEMIC, NewsCenter Maine, Pine State Trading Co., Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Portland Sea Dogs, Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, Stonewall Kitchen Company, Thomas Moser Handmade American Furniture Unum, The VIA Agency, WMTW, Words from the Woods and Wyman’s.

The effort came together in less than a week after the COVID-19 pandemic officially began, and was structured so that at least one local business, sometimes a group of businesses banding together, was responsible for donor recruitment. The team worked together to implement safety precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and cross train volunteers recruited specifically for the Distance Saves Lives blood drive series.

“The need for blood is constant, it does not stop for a pandemic. We are grateful to MaineHealth and the Greater Portland business community who came together so swiftly to help the Red Cross keep lifesaving blood on hospital shelves,” said Stephanie Couturier, Interim Regional CEO, American Red Cross Northern New England Region. “The Distance Saves Lives blood drive model developed by MaineHealth, and implemented so flawlessly, is being shared with Red Cross regions across the country.”

The initiative was originally planned for ten weeks in response to the pandemic, but once word spread about the effort, more businesses raised their hands to get involved. This demand extended the drive an additional four weeks for a total of 14 weeks. Bringing in more than 100 donors a day for 14 days provided many hospitals with lifesaving blood at a time when the entire country was experiencing critically low levels.

“It was an incredible showing from the business community. Partner companies did a great job encouraging employees and communities to give,” said Melissa Smith CEO of WEX, who led the effort in partnership with MaineHealth. Not only did the leaders of these companies reassure their communities it was safe to give, the vast majority of them showed up to give blood and greet others.”

The need for blood is constant, and the Red Cross continues to host blood drives across Maine. Those wishing to give blood are encouraged to make an appointment so that participants can maintain the appropriate distance from one another as recommended by the CDC. Other precautions, including temperature checks and the use of protective gear by those taking blood, will also be employed. To make an appointment, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767) or go to redcrossblood.org.

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