Red Cross volunteers keep the blood flowing

News-DemocratSeptember 19, 2011 

When David Garcia retired after 40 years as a meat cutter, he wanted to find something to do to stay active during his retirement.

Garcia, 65, of Columbia, started volunteering with the American Red Cross' Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region in May 2010 as a courier to deliver blood to hospitals.

Although he has only been volunteering for the Red Cross blood services for just over a year, he has already logged more than 700 miles to get donated blood and plasma where it needs to be.

"I started with volunteering one day a week. I try to do something different each day of the week and that's one of the reasons I volunteered," he said. "Now, I fill in for the guys during the day if they go on vacation."

He has been recognized by the Red Cross as a "New and Outstanding Volunteer."

"There are about four hospitals that I take plasma to in the afternoon," Garcia said. "The hospitals call and order what they need, it's all packed in ice and we take it to the blood bank at the hospital."

The volunteer courier program was started last year as a way for the Red Cross to save money on blood delivery. The Red Cross still employees courier drivers but is now fulfilling part of that role with volunteers.

"Normally it's about a three-hour thing once a week, depending on how many runs, how many stops you have," he said. "I enjoy doing it. I help out and they save money by not having to hire a courier for it. Once I got in there, the people were very nice. Everybody was very nice and I enjoy doing it and I always look forward to doing it."

When Garcia first started looking around for volunteer opportunities after he retired, he was really interested in volunteering for the USO.

"But they have a waiting list for volunteers," he said. "I was surprised that there was a big waiting list, so I started looking for different things to volunteer for. Right now I'm looking into trying to volunteer for a campground, maybe next year. People volunteer at different campgrounds and parks and stay for a couple of weeks or so and volunteer while you're living at the campground."

The Red Cross award surprised him.

"I didn't expect it at all," he said. "This program that they have, with the volunteer couriers, I was the first one that started for them. Now, they have four more people to fill each day but I'm always ready to go if they need me."

When he isn't volunteering or playing golfing, Garcia and his wife, Cheri, who is also retired, spend time with their grandchildren, do work around the yard and help their kids out.

"I enjoy retirement, it's great," Garcia said. "People that retire don't just want to retire and sit and do nothing. I try to stay active and do something different each day. Sometimes there's not enough time to get it all done."

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Bowen at jbowen@bnd.com or 239-2667.

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