The American Red Cross of Central Ohio needs volunteers to roll up their sleeves to meet an urgent need for blood donations.
Rodney J. Wilson, Red Cross communications manager, said the severe winter weather has caused the cancellation of 50 blood drives locally and more than 1,200 Red Cross blood drives across 34 states since Jan. 1.
Through Feb. 15, the Red Cross of Central Ohio has received 4,524 fewer blood donations than at the same point in 2013 -- 18,542 this year compared to 23,066 in 2013. Each donation provides about a pint of blood.
Wilson said donations are down by 10 percent across the country, with a national shortfall of 36,000 blood donations.
The need is urgent for specific blood types: O-negative, O-positive, A-negative and B-negative.
Gahanna-area resident Robert Burgess donates blood regularly at the Stoneridge Donor Center in Gahanna. He donates about every 60 days because the waiting period between donations is 56 days.
"It doesn't take too much of your time, and it saves a bunch of lives," he said. "It just makes me feel good."
Burgess was involved in a serious automobile accident many years ago, causing paralysis on his right side, he said.
"I didn't need any blood at the time, but I got to thinking that I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I've gone through," he said. "If my blood can help, I will donate it. If my blood can help someone avoid muscle weaknesses, I want to be there for them."
Central Ohio residents who want to make an appointment to donate blood should call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-833-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Enter a ZIP code to find a list of nearby blood drives in the coming weeks.
Appointments are not required, but they are encouraged so the Red Cross could plan staffing and equipment accordingly and reduce wait times.
Donors must be at least 17 years old, meet height and weight requirements (at least 110 pounds based on height) and be in good general health to be eligible to donate.
The central Ohio Red Cross supports the blood transfusion needs of 41 area hospitals. The average daily need for blood donors in central Ohio is 800 donors a day to support the need, according to information on the website.
Wilson said every two seconds someone in America receives a blood transfusion.
To learn more about donating blood, go online to redcrossblood.org.