July 24, 2013 - American Legion Post 108 in Oxford is well-known as a place to learn about military history, enjoy some fried fish on a Friday night or belly up to the bar for a beer or two.
But how many folks realize it's also a place to help save lives by giving a piece of themselves?
Four times a year, the post, located at 130 E. Drahner Rd., hosts blood drives for the American Red Cross. The next one is Wednesday, Aug. 7 from 1-7 p.m.
Since February 2002, Post 108's drives have collected 1,883 units (or 235.375 gallons) of blood, according to figures provided by the Red Cross to Oxford residents Jerry and Judy Ingles, who coordinate the drives.
"When I read different Legion magazines, they brag about posts that have (collected) half of what we have," said Jerry, a U.S. Army veteran (1957-59) who's personally donated more than 15 gallons of blood over the years.
"Oxford's American Legion post is really up there in terms of success and turnout, and the number of drives they do in a year," said Nancy Kinggo, a member of the biomedical services management team for the Red Cross. "We would love for all of our towns to have drives that run four times a year."
"They actually epitomize what a blood drive program is," she continued. "They have their dates set sometimes two years in advance. They work further out than we're often able to work ourselves in terms of having it on the calendar and making sure that the space is available. I think often they've sacrificed other opportunities to use that space for other events and allowed us to be there for the blood drive."
On average, Post 108's drives yield about 41 units (or 5.1 gallons) of blood per collection.
"That is an above-average collection," said Kinggo, who noted the Red Cross would "ideally" like to see the average six-hour drive yield 30 or more pints. "(Post 108's) efficiency is very, very good."
The most blood ever collected in a single Post 108 drive was 76 units (or 9.5 gallons) back in August 2006. On seven occasions since February 2002, the post has collected more than 50 units.
"They're proof that there's never enough blood drives," Kinggo said. "Oxford is a very giving community."
Given times of the year and weather conditions can have a big impact on blood drives, those are impressive numbers, according to Kinggo.
Not only does Post 108 conduct four blood drives a year (winter, spring, summer and fall), it holds them during some traditionally "challenging times."
"The summer is a very, very challenging time for us because about 20 percent of our blood supply" is supported by drives at high schools and colleges, which typically are on break, Kinggo said.
Jerry and Judy recalled conducting one of their drives during a blizzard. "For as nasty as it was, we got 18 pints that day," Judy said.
Kinggo attributed much of the success of the Post 108 drives to the dedicated couple.
"Judy and Jerry – I can't say enough about them," she said. "We appreciate all of their efforts. It's a really wonderful team."
Judy, who's a member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 108, has been involved in blood drives since the early 1980s while Jerry, a member and past commander of American Veterans Post 108, has been involved since 1995.
Over the years, the Ingles team and Post 108 have earned three Platinum Awards from the Red Cross because of the amount of blood collected and the number of drives held.
Judy noted that she and her husband don't do it all by themselves. She's extremely grateful for the help provided by fellow volunteers Barb Bovee and Pat Gall.
Kinggo noted how Judy is a trained Red Cross volunteer who helps out at other blood drives at churches and schools. "I work probably about three to five a month," Judy said.
"It's like she lives and breathes the American Red Cross," she said. "She's very inspiring. She really is one of our best communicators and supporters."
But Judy doesn't just take blood from others. She also gives. In fact, she's currently working on hitting the 13-gallon mark. Although that's an impressive amount, Judy's not the lead donor at Post 108.
Based on records, it appears that Orion resident Jim Parkhurst, a past Post 108 commander and curator of the group's extensive military museum, has donated the most blood.
He's just 2 units shy of 17 gallons. That goes back to about 1968.
"I always thought maybe it will save a friend's life or one of my family members – or it might save my own (life)," said Parkhurst, who noted his main goal has always been to aid others. "Helping your neighbor – that's what we're all here for."
Parkhurst gave blood regularly to help Vietnam War casualties when he served in the U.S. Army from 1965-68. But those donations are not included in his civilian total.
Parkhurst noted that Post 108, which was chartered in November 1919, has been helping to conduct local blood drives since 1940s. The first blood drive was held at the 130 E. Drahner Rd. location on June 27, 1981, just 21 days after the facility opened.
"When I came home from the service, I think the first time I donated was at the Legion," he said.
Parkhurst tries to donate at every Post 108 drive. "You do it as often as you can, when you can," he said.
When asked how long he plans to continue giving blood, Parkhurst replied, "I'll do it as long as I can."
"I just feel it's an important thing and I wish more younger people would try it," he said. "A lot of them are afraid they're going to catch hepatitis or some other disease and that's not true."
Fear of needles and lack of time also keep many potential donors away.
But the pain is "only for a moment" and is "similar" to what would be felt by pinching the fleshy, soft underside of the arm, according to the Red Cross website.
As for the time issue, the entire blood donation process takes about one hour and 15 minutes. The actual donation of a unit of whole blood. takes eight to 10 minutes. The time can vary slightly based on a donor's health history and attendance at the blood drive.
For those people who are scared or have questions about donating blood, Parkhurst urged them to contact the Red Cross and get some factual information. Much of that information is at www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/donation-faqs
To make an appointment for Post 108's Aug. 7 blood drive, please call (248) 628-1051.
Walk-ins are welcome.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.