More than 300 people sign up to donate during event staged by Center for Civic Engagement and American Red Cross

As much as Norwich perseveres, it serves. On Thursday’s fall blood drive at Plumley Armory, junior Kevin Sloan will have helped the Norwich University community display both traits — duty with rolled-up-sleeves and stress ball squeezes and persistence from staging the event amid a pandemic.

Sloan, a business management major, U.S. Army ROTC member and Civic Scholar, was student organizer for the drive, one of two every year coordinated by Norwich’s Center for Civic Engagement and the American Red Cross. It will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kathleen Luce, a coordinator for the American Red Cross’ Vermont chapter and a 1993 Norwich graduate, said the need for blood is high now partly because the coronavirus pandemic has limited the number of blood drives in the region — fewer schools and other civic venues are holding them.

“I am humbled by the Norwich community and their show of support. It’s a community you can’t replicate.” Kathleen Luce ’93, Vermont chapter coordinator, American Red Cross

Also, she said, blood needs have risen over the year-end holidays because donations dip as potential donors travel. AAA told USA Today this week it’s hard to forecast travel during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the club said, this past summer’s trend, in which travel dropped 15% from a  year earlier, may hold.

Sloan, who’s working with student teammates Hadlee Wolfram, a sophomore, and Aidan Grady, a freshman, said organizing the drive has taught him technical, conceptual and logistical skills. He had to factor in coronavirus-related health precautions, including mandatory screening of all donors and support staff, mandatory mask wearing for everyone and physical distancing for donation stations.

Predonation screening, which would have happened before at tables inside the armory, will happen in tents outside. Luce said the Red Cross will test donors for COVID-19 antibodies.

In an email, Sloan said of the drive, “Every year is special in its own way. However, with COVID, and more guidelines had to be followed, more communication over a longer period of time was necessary to ensure success.”

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier)

Exceeding goals

Luce said because of the pandemic, the Red Cross halved its usual donor goal to 250 from 500 to allow for sanitation between donations and prevent crowding. This year’s drive is also closed to the wider Northfield community and limited to students, faculty and staff.

Nevertheless, she said, interest remained high — 347 people had signed up by Tuesday, exceeding the goal. Luce said the Red Cross usually books 450 to 470 appointments for the fall drive, traditionally one of the biggest on the Vermont chapter’s calendar.

fall blood drive 5 min
The Red Cross of Northern New England tweeted Friday morning that Norwich University’s fall blood drive yielded 382 pints of blood, topping the 250-pint goa. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

“I am humbled by the Norwich community and their show of support,” she said. “It’s a community you can’t replicate.”

Junior-year Civic Scholars like Sloan serve 100 hours as Leaders in Service, leading service-oriented initiatives, programs, services and events. Students in the Civic Scholars program are eligible to receive a $3,000 scholarship each year they are involved.

Sloan quoted a Red Cross statistic suggesting that 1 pint of blood has the potential to save up to three lives and said giving blood is always important, pandemic or not.

“This alone is more than enough reason to donate,” he wrote. “Large drives like these are what make Norwich special and a difference in the donation community.”

POSTSCRIPT: The Red Cross of Northern New England tweeted Friday morning that Norwich’s blood drive yielded 382 pints of blood, topping the 250-pint goal.

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