By David Strom, American Red Cross
Most everyone is familiar with American Red Cross blood drives. But collecting the blood is just one part of the operation. After processing, the right blood products must be delivered to the right hospitals at the right time, and that requires a lot of logistics. To get the job done, the Red Cross depends on volunteers to transport these donations. One of the most reliable and enthusiastic volunteers is Dave Hearst, who began volunteering in May of 2018 after hearing about the need for drivers while making his own regular blood donation.
Since retiring from a 38-year career at AT&T, he has increased the number of weekly routes he covers, sometimes taking two or more assignments each week, many on weekends.
“After all, when you are retired, every day is like a weekend, and the need for volunteers is greater on the weekends,” he said. “Plus, parking and negotiating traffic is a lot easier, not to mention getting in and out of the busier hospitals with my deliveries. I especially like working holidays like Christmas Eve, because that’s when the chapter needs the most help. When volunteers aren’t available paid drivers must be hired, and that costs even more on holidays and weekends.”
The cost savings provided by Dave and his fellow volunteer drivers is significant, more than $1 million annually. “I just hate seeing the chapter spend money on couriers if I can take a shift,” he said.
Many volunteer blood drivers pick the same route each time, but Dave likes to mix things up, often taking longer routes to Cape Girardeau, Effingham or Columbia. That way he can fit in time for attending Mass along some of his routes. “That is one of the reasons I like the early Sunday morning shifts.”
He says that the mix of being alone on the road, yet meeting and getting to know the blood bank staffs is a nice combination. “I also get a pretty good cardio workout carrying the blood containers in and out of the blood banks.” Hearst has helped recruit several of his fraternity brothers to become volunteers as well.
One of the biggest reasons he is a volunteer is knowing how useful he is to the chapter’s operations. “With other organizations when I volunteered, it wasn’t as rewarding. Often you would stand around, waiting to be assigned a task or doing grunt work such as taking the trash out. With the Red Cross, you are doing something important and directly benefiting the mission.”
For his dedicated service, Dave Hearst was honored with the 2021 Biomed Volunteer Award by the Missouri-Arkansas Region of the American Red Cross.