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Retired nurse urges people to give blood for Christmas

| Monday, Dec. 24, 2007

For retired nurse Carolyn Manown, there's no better present during Christmastime than the gift of your time or your blood to the American Red Cross.

And with an increased need for blood donations and volunteers this holiday season, Manown has encouraged people in search of a special activity to participate in a local drive.

Manown, 71, of Lynnwood, has spent the past seven years volunteering at and organizing Red Cross blood drives, mainly through her church, Lynnwood Lutheran Church in Washington Township.

Manown recently retired after more than 40 years as a nurse.

Her connection to the Red Cross began when her late husband, Kirby, was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1956.

Manown said she volunteered through a Red Cross program to teach German wives caring techniques.

Her volunteer work at blood drives in the Mid-Mon Valley began in 2000, shortly after the Red Cross helped her family recover from severe flooding that damaged their home.

"The road overran with water," Manown recalled. "Our backyard and our cellar and our basement and our pool and everything got flooded."

A few days after the flood, Manown encountered a local Red Cross director who happened to be singing at her church.

The Red Cross helped Manown by buying her a water heater and replacing her broken basement door.

During the recovery effort, Manown said she overheard some of the Red Cross volunteers mention a need for local help.

"My husband said, 'Here, here's a volunteer for you,'" Manown said with a laugh.

Since then, Manown has been a regular at blood drives.

She has helped direct about six drives per year for the last four years.

Manown said Shawls of Love, a charity effort organized by her church group, has expanded because of the drives.

Manown said the group has donated more than 100 shawls to local residents who are terminally ill or fighting cancer.

"I've met people who have actually started their own groups from hearing about it at our blood drives," Manown said.

Manown said she learned as a nurse in training at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh how important donated blood is to some youngsters.

"Blood is so vital. Just take a trip to Children's Hospital and see these poor, little kids who are depending on blood," she said. "People have to realize how important volunteering is, especially with the Red Cross. I want to do it for as long as I can."

Giving time to charity has been second nature for most of Manown's life, but she encouraged those who have yet to donate their time to the Red Cross to act soon because the need is great.

"The blood is needed so badly year round," she said. "We were low on volunteers and consequently we haven't had a lot of blood drives. We need more organizations having blood drives in the Valley.

"Just give a little bit back. We have so much in our lives. There are so many people that are doing without things and so many people that are less fortunate. You need to just sit back and say, 'What's important?'"

Red Cross blood donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in generally good health and feel well the day of the drive.

Whole blood donors can contribute every 56 days.

The following local drives have been scheduled:

n Noon to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Monongahela Valley Hospital community room, Carroll Township.

Noon to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 4, Speers Borough Building, 300 Phillips St.

-1 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7, First Baptist Church, 601 W. Main St., Monongahela.

- Noon to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8, Church of the Nazarene, Fitz Henry Road, Smithton.

- 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 19, Mon Valley Boys Scouts blood drive, Monongahela Valley Hospital community room.

For information about donating blood, call Dana Zikesh at (724) 494-4090 or call 1(800) 4483-5433.

New volunteers must complete a short training program in Greensburg.

Scheduling to work at the blood drives is flexible. Volunteers can choose to work only a few hours if necessary.

For information about volunteering, call Tricia Skiavo at (724) 834-6510, ext. 102.

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