Miller-Keystone Blood Center - exclusive blood supplier to our regional hospitals - has announced the kick-off of National Blood Donor Month 2009. Together, blood banking organizations across the country are appealing to all eligible blood donors to donate the gift of life this January - a time when blood supplies across the nation are traditionally in short supply. As part of this monthlong event, the names of all individuals registering to donate at any MKBC donor center Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Hazleton or Reading) between January 1-31, 2009, will be entered into a raffle for a big screen TV. The donation can also be made on one of the Center's community blood drives held during that week."Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood," explains Marsha Springel, Manager of Donor Resources. "Unfortunately, too many Americans wait until they or a family member need blood before they truly realize the importance of volunteer blood donations. Donating blood saves lives. It may not be you, your family member or your neighbor that needs blood today. But someone, somewhere does."

"Donating blood is a simple, safe, life-saving, and selfless gift that millions of Americans can do," Springel continues. "As we celebrate the New Year, we're asking people in our region - and across the Country - to remember to give thanks, and give the gift of life by donating at least twice in 2009."

During this annual, monthlong observance, the blood banking community is encouraging healthy individuals to donate in January, and to pledge to donate at least one more time during 2009. January is usually a difficult month for blood centers to collect blood donations due to holidays, busy travel schedules, inclement weather and winter illnesses.

"The winter season can lead to a reduction in donor turnout, which can put our nation's blood inventory at a critical low," states Springel, who confirms that while our region's current blood inventory is at adequate levels, inclement weather, seasonal illnesses and low donor turnout projected in late December and early January is expected to lead to decreased inventory levels in the coming weeks. Therefore, she notes, the Center is encouraging any eligible whole blood or platelet donors to schedule an appointment at this time.

"While holiday activity and inclement weather may prevent people from donating blood, accidents and illness do not take a holiday," adds Springel.

"Blood is needed every day to care for premature infants, people with cancer and other diseases; for burn victims, surgery patients or organ transplant recipients; and to save the lives of accident victims. Our mission is to ensure that these blood products are readily available to patients at our regional hospitals whenever needed - and it is only the blood on the shelves that saves lives."

"We encourage individuals throughout the region to schedule an appointment to donate," concludes Springel. "Blood has a shelf-life of only 42 days, which means it constantly needs to be replenished. Donors can give whole blood every 56 days, and platelets on a more frequent basis, up to 24 times per year."

Those interested in donating blood may call Miller-Keystone Blood Center at 800-223-6667 to schedule an appointment; or for the most up-to-date listing of drives being held in the region, visit the Blood Center's web site at www.GiveAPint.com.

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