More than 12,000 people said "yes" to organ and tissue donation last year at a single Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles location in Powell -- the highest number in the state, according to Lifeline of Ohio.

The deputy registrar, 256 W. Olentangy St., was honored as the top BMV in Ohio for registering more than three-quarters of its customers in 2017.

The Front Line Award is as much an honor for the 76.2 percent of those who registered for the Ohio Donor Registry last year as it is for the BMV's staff, said Rupal Parikh, who has owned the location since 2012.

Parikh and her six staff members signed up 12,380 new organ donors last year. It is the sixth consecutive year the branch has been named best in state.

"This is home, and I think it's not just our accomplishment, it's the whole community. Our community is very understanding and helpful and they are willing to register," Parikh said. "We take our role very conscientiously. We can ask, but if people don't sign up, it's not going to get accomplished."

In Ohio, BMV employees are expected to ask unregistered or first-time licensees if they wish to be added to the state's registry. If they agree, the choice is signified on their driver's license.

There are 2,859 people waiting for a live-saving transplant in Ohio, said Lauren Stevens, community outreach and partnership coordinator for Lifeline of Ohio, the nonprofit organization that promotes and coordinates organ and tissue donations for 37 counties.

Nationally, that number stands at nearly 115,000 people.

Only about 59 percent of Ohio drivers are registered as organ donors, "but surveys show that nearly nine out of 10 Americans support organ and tissue donation," Stevens said.

Ronni Richards has been a board member with Lifeline of Ohio since the early 2000s.

Her husband died in 1995 while waiting for a heart transplant. He had been on the list for nearly six months, Richards said.

"Twenty people die a day while waiting," Richards said. "When my husband was put on the list, I had no idea that many people died waiting.

"Education is critical and we need (BMV employees) desperately. They are at a 76 percent registration rate and it's amazing to think of how many lives they have helped save."

Several recipients whose lives were saved thanks to organ donation were on hand for a recent ceremony, which coincided with national Donate Life Month.

"We get recharged when we see all of the recipients in our office," Parikh said. "It hits home for us. Those are living miracles."

For more information on organ donation or to register, visit lifelineofohio.org.

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