Jordan Fire Chief Gregg Pekarna has been giving blood since he was 18. It may seem hard to consider just how much blood that adds up to over the decades — but he’s been keeping track, and later this month he’ll cross the seven-gallon mark.

Pekarna said it was his mother who first convinced him to donate blood all those years ago.

“She was beta-thalassemic — it’s a blood-borne condition where your blood cells don’t carry iron like they’re supposed to,” Pekarna said. “She was always telling me, ‘You need to give blood. I can’t so you need to.’”

Now Gregg Pekarna is urging local residents to donate at the July 19 Red Cross blood drive hosted by the Jordan Fire Department. The local drive comes as blood and platelets are in high demand to prevent blood shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is no known end date in this fight against coronavirus, and the Red Cross urgently needs the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to meet the needs of patient care,” a statement on the Red Cross website said.

Pekarna himself will be contributing a double red cell donation — a process that, by returning plasma into the bloodstream, extracts double the red blood cells from a donor. He said the persistent need for blood donations is what’s kept him contributing gallons over the years.

“There’s always a need for it,” Pekarna said. “Being in the fire service, I’m always there looking to help out. The Red Cross is always desperate for blood, there is always a need for blood.”

Time slots for the July 19 blood drive are steadily filling up, but Pekarna said there is still time to register. Appointments can be made by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. The blood drive is at the Jordan Fire Department training room located at 501 N Varner St., 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Another blood drive is scheduled at the Ridges of Sand Creek on July 15, from 12:30–6:30 p.m. Appointments for the July 15 drive can be made by calling Jeanne Pahl at 952-492-2092.

Appointments usually last 30 minutes to an hour, Pekarna said, and the pain is negligible — especially considering the good it does for the community.

“There’s a such a huge need for blood right now, especially with COVID-19 going on. You’re giving back and helping your fellow man,” Pekarna said.

COVID-19 precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 are being asked to postpone their donation.

The Red Cross maintains that each donation center follows strict safety and infection control standards including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff. Donors are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive.

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