Bloodmobile gets fresh help

FAIRMONT – This is the 11th year Mark Johnson and his wife, Bonnie, have coordinated the Red Cross Bloodmobile in Fairmont, and a new face has joined their efforts.

Toni Shantz, coordinator of the surgical technologist program at Presentation College in Fairmont, will help the Johnsons with the upcoming Bloodmobile next week at the Holiday Inn.

The Bloodmobile will be open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday, 1-7 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. All presenting donors will be given a free root beer float at the Bloodmobile canteen and a $5 food certificate to Green Mill of Fairmont.

“Toni’s been doing so many things for quite a while,” Johnson said. “She’s been in charge of the canteen and pre-advertising. She has been instrumental in providing volunteer students.”

“It’s a win-win deal,” Shantz said. “The students have to have community service time, and most of our students are in the medical field.”

In order to obtain an associate’s degree from Presentation, students must put in 40 hours of community service. For a bachelor’s degree, students must put in 80 hours.

“Recruiting students is imperative, but so is retention. Reaching out to the community makes them feel like they’re part of the community,” Shantz said.

Johnson got started with the local blood drive in 2004, when the Bloodmobile was held in the old VFW building on State Street.

“We had to carry all the equipment up those stairs,” he said. “Luckily, we got help from the Sentence to Serve group. John McDonald and Kyle Redenius head that up. They were a great help.”

Although the STS manpower is no longer needed with the setup, the group still assists.

“Now, they’re putting up signs all around town,” Johnson said.

Those signs advertise the Bloodmobile visit, and the STS crew lines Blue Earth Avenue and State Street with the visual reminders.

Locally, the blood drive usually achieves its quota set by the Red Cross and based on totals from the previous year. Fairmont ranks as one of the most reliable and generous of the donation sites in the state.

“Brainerd and Owatonna are the only ones ahead of us,” Johnson said.

Donors can give blood once every 56 days, Johnson said, and he encouraged people to donate.

“It’s a fabulous way to give back to the community,” said Shantz, adding that the procedure is relatively painless and only takes a short time.

“A lot of it (blood) winds up locally, but some goes to the University [of Minnesota], and some goes to Mayo,” he said.

The Red Cross sends the blood “wherever the need is.”

Anyone who would like more information may call Johnson at (507) 236-8888.

Even though there’s an additional coordinator, Johnson doesn’t plan to step down any time soon.

“Now that I’ve got Toni’s help, I might last a couple more years,” the 78-year-old Johnson quipped.

“Those are extremely big shoes to fill,” Shantz said.