COVID-19 slows critical blood and food donations in Northeast Ohio

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) — Fear of the novel coronavirus is now impacting the mission of lifesaving organizations, including nonprofits like the American Red Cross and Greater Cleveland Food Bank who officials say depend on volunteers and face a dangerous shortage of helping hands.

“Over the past couple of days we’ve had over 500 different volunteers cancel shifts between this week and mid-April,” said Matt Jackson of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Thursday a smaller than normal group of volunteers gathered to help pack meals for food insecure children to eat over the weekend. Jackson says the Food Bank has about 150 employees full time. On an annual basis they rely on 21,000 volunteers.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon K-12 public, private and charter schools will be on an extended spring break starting end of school Monday until April 3. Jackson says it’s not clear what will develop in the coming days regarding changes to their distribution efforts to feed children in need.

“It’s all different kinds of people that are in need from the very young children to the very older people and everything in between. Those people their needs don’t stop just because something happens,” said Vickie Adamus, the food bank’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year.

Karen Pozna, Director of Communications and Special Events for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank issued the following statement to Fox 8:

“The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is currently working with our partner programs to ensure children have the food they need over the next several weeks. We are in contact with our many partners trying to determine the most effective ways to distribute food in a safe and efficient manner. As details are finalized, we will share our plans with the community. If you or someone you know is in need of food, please call our Help Center at 216-738-2067.”

Officials at the Red Cross in Cleveland say they are also concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting their ability to collect donor blood. 

“We’ve actually seen blood drives cancel around the country and as of right now we’ve been unable to collect 8,000 pints of blood,” said Christy Peters of the Red Cross.

Volunteer Al Whitney says he’s donated blood for more than 55 years. Whitney along with Red Cross officials says it’s critical for healthy people to continue to donate during this emergency.

“The need for blood is constant and we serve more than 50 hospitals here in Northeast Ohio and we are depending on the community to continue to give blood to meet that need,” said Peters.

Peters adds they are concerned the healthy donor population could start to diminish due to COVID-19 and they may not have as many people who are able to come to donate blood.

“You’re not donating blood, you’re donating life,” said Whitney. “That person will get your blood will live another day, will take another breath, will have another birthday.”

Click here to read the complete statement from the American Red Cross.

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