Larry Lee Lang has always done whatever it takes to support the American Red Cross. Lang lives in Holmes County, Ohio, the county with the largest population of Amish in the nation, and he has made it his personal responsibility to include that community with the Red Cross, especially in blood donations.
Lang recently received the national Red Cross Biomedical Partnership Award to recognize his extraordinary service.
“Larry and his wife Patricia are wonderful people,” said David Plate, CEO of the North Ohio Blood Services Region, who nominated Lang for the award. “They were school bus drivers who gave everything they have to the Red Cross.”
Lang served as Board Chair for the Holmes County Chapter in Millersburg, Ohio, until Lou Gehrig’s Disease made it difficult to continue, and Patricia still serves as community chapter executive.
Members of the Amish community traditionally provided whole blood donations when the region held blood drives in the area. Then Lang had a bold idea: to encourage the already generous community to understand the need for platelets that clot the blood and the importance of the platelet apheresis program that collects platelets from a donor’s blood and safely returns the remaining blood components to the donor. Since he began in 1999, Lang has helped recruit 490 Amish donors to the Cleveland apheresis center, resulting in 3,600 platelet donations.
Because of the Amish prohibitions on driving, Lang drove donors to the Cleveland center in his own vehicle without reimbursement, making the 250-mile round-trip more than 300 times, and even stopping along the way for hungry donors to get dinner. Sometimes other members of an Amish family would ride along to Cleveland for a day of shopping, something Lang was happy to oblige. Eventually the Northern Ohio Blood Services Region began reimbursing the Homes County Chapter for mileage, which allowed the chapter to save for and purchase a 14-passenger van for the program.
When bestowing the award to Lang at a Red Cross ceremony in Washington D.C., Shaun Gilmore, the president of American Red Cross Biomedical Services, commented that Larry and his wife Patricia were “partners in service” and praised their work to engage community blood donors as “phenomenal.”
But that’s not all. Despite his declining physical health, Lang bought a fixer-upper house and refurbished it as temporary Red Cross housing for people displaced by home fires, a common situation in his community because of the candles and lanterns that are a large part of the Amish lifestyle.
Lang was asked what advice he would have for someone interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer; his answer was succinct. “Always remember that you will not always please all of the people all of the time,” he said. “Just try to always do the best that you can.”
Schedule a blood donation appointment today or become a blood volunteer helping register donors and providing snacks following donations.