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Giving the gift of life

Two Buckingham residents had their generosity acknowledged Monday, Dec. 7, with surprise plaques recognizing their respective donations of more than 100 pints of blood to the American Red Cross.

Nancy Shumaker, 71, of Dillwyn, and Luther Thomas, 69, of Arvonia, received the plaques as a surprise “thank you” from blood drive volunteers and the Masonic Lodges of the 17th District for their service to the community and their history of donating through the Buckingham Blood Drive.

On Tuesday, Shumaker, who has given 109 pints of blood to date, said she donated her first pint of blood back in her late teens after witnessing her father’s passion for donating his blood.

“He told me it was something that would always make you feel good to give,”  she said.

But Shumaker’s dedication to the donations was formed back in the early 2000s after a family health scare emphasized the importance of blood donations.

“Back in 2002 to 2004, my oldest daughter had to end up having blood transfusions every four weeks for two years, so if it had not been for those blood transfusions she wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “So giving blood, you might not realize it, but it does save lives. It makes you feel good on top of that.”

On Tuesday, Thomas said he gave his first pint when he was a freshman at Hampden-Sydney College in the year 1969. The upcoming Dec. 16 blood drive will mark 119 pints donated.

“I feel like it’s something that we need to do for one another,” he said in reference to the donations. “It’s easy enough for me, anyway. I know some people have difficulty with the process, but I just feel like it’s something I can do every few weeks, and collectively with a lot of other people we create a blood bank that helps to save lives.”

The Buckingham Blood Drive, part of the Masonic Blood Program, is sponsored and organized by the Masonic Lodges of the 17th District. Local lodges and community members hold five blood drives each year.

Volunteer and citizen Donna McRae-Jones said she and fellow blood drive volunteer Zainie Jamerson came up with the surprise plaques as a way to recognize the county’s top donors.

When Shumaker and Thomas gathered on Monday at the First Baptist Church of Dillwyn, they were unaware they would be receiving the awards. Both were surprised to receive such recognition.

“Blood donations aren’t something that you do for fame and glory, but it’s nice to hear a ‘thank you.’ I appreciate that very much,” Thomas said.

Shumaker and Thomas, who both have Type O-positive blood, stressed that just a little bit of time spent donating blood can really make a change.

“It’s just an hour of your time every couple of months, and the benefits that come from that short period of time, it’s just so far reaching,” Shumaker said. “You don’t know whose life you might be saving. It’s just a small way to give back.”

Also in attendance on Monday was Spencer Adams, a member of the Buckingham Lodge and coordinator of the blood drive. Adams, who has been helping out with the drive for more than a decade, accepted an award from the American Red Cross back in October on behalf of the Dillwyn community for its outstanding dedication to the blood drive program.

“The big thing is how many lives are saved,” Adams said. “From what I can understand from the Red Cross, three lives are saved with each donation. So, these people that we recognized for 100-plus donations, they’ve saved 300 or more lives.”

A total of 46 pints of blood were collected during October’s blood drive in Buckingham. Volunteers are hoping that the upcoming Dec. 16 blood drive will yield even more success.

The next blood drive is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16, from noon to 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Dillwyn located at 16980 Oak Street in Dillwyn.

Adams said the holiday season is a critical time for blood donations. He added the Red Cross is taking every precaution with blood drives to ensure the safety of volunteers and donors, including constant sanitization and temperature checks upon entry.

Adams was grateful for the work of the donors and the help of the church in order to make the blood donations a regular success.

“It’s a life-saving effort,” he said.