Undergraduate Eli Nelson reads his phone as he donates blood along with undergraduate Bridget White as she talks with team lead and phlebotomist Brittany Mark.

The Blood Connection benefits health care providers locally

University of Georgia Greek Life has found a new way to support an outside organization that is serving the Athens community.

Greek Life is partnering with The Blood Connection, a nonprofit organization that takes the unique approach of hosting blood drives that directly benefit health care providers in the community where the drives take place.

Therefore, UGA blood drives conducted through the Blood Connection provide blood to Piedmont-Athens Regional Hospital, one of the Blood Connection’s health care partners. UGA Greek Life has sponsored three blood drives through the Blood Connection and plans to host quarterly events with the organization.

“The real draw to partner with the Blood Connection was to benefit our community here at home,” said Josh Welch, UGA’s director of Greek Life. “We are early in our relationship, but I hope to grow it moving forward.”

Their most recent blood drive, held on March 15, aimed to host 72 donors and exceeded that goal with 111 completed donations. With each donation supporting three patients, the March blood drive will make a difference in more than 300 community members’ lives. The previous two events sponsored by Greek Life saw 189 total donors.

“These students have been great,” said Bill Duncan, a business development representative with the Blood Connection. “They helped us set up a table [in Tate Plaza] on Monday to get appointments before we arrived today.”

Amanda Wild, a Blood Connection account manager, noted that the largest decline in blood donations during the COVID pandemic came in the 18- to 25-year-old age bracket. The organization has partnered with universities like UGA, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina to increase blood donations among this age bracket.

“It looked like an impactful way to give back, and it could happen during the school day,” said Elle Dignam, a first-year student from St. Louis, Missouri. “I loved Athens when I was visiting colleges. As a music therapy major, I don’t have a ton of time. But the main way I have been involved in the community is through my choir class. We have performed at a church, and our midterm was singing at a nursing home.”

Nikki Turner, who works as a nursing administrator for Piedmont-Athens Regional Hospital, came to campus to participate in the blood drive. Her role connects her to the thousands of UGA students with majors ranging from the pre-health fields, to law, to social work who volunteer and intern at the hospital.

“It’s important for me to donate,” Turner said. “I have many family members who have or had cancer, and I know that they frequently need blood.”