Usually, blood is what divides us, but on Sept. 20 it brought the local community together at Malvern Town Centre.
The mall hosted its third blood donor clinic of the year and had a great turnout, proving what Janine Smith of the Canadian Blood Services has found during her career: it’s the smaller communities, like Malvern, that provide the bulk of blood donations in Toronto.
“When I see Malvern in my schedule on a Saturday, I’m fairly certain it’s going to collect well,” she said from the refreshment table at the Malvern Town Centre. “The community . . . really does support this clinic.”
Smith, the clinic recruitment coordinator for the Scarborough area, says downtown Toronto is where Canadian Blood Services has the toughest time attracting donors.
She says this is likely because the downtown clinics are permanent and aren’t as convenient for people to get to as mobile clinics like the one in Malvern.
“People [downtown] are busy all the time and they lead a very fast-paced life,” said Smith, as red-vested volunteers bustled around setting out cookies, juice, and coffee for the donors.
“When they want to donate they prefer that it’s right in their location of work or maybe their community centre.”
Jim Tresidder, who has donated for the past 47 years and also volunteers at the clinics, agrees the hardest part of giving blood is finding a convenient clinic.
“There are times that I want to try and keep a regular donation process and sometimes there just aren’t clinics available where I am, when I want them,” he said with a loud laugh.
Apart from helping those who need blood, the sense of community and meeting new people is what Tresidder, along with most other donors, likes best about donating.
“They range from really shy to the fully extroverted characters,” Tresidder said, his blue-grey eyes crinkling in a broad smile.
Occasionally, community groups also help boost blood donation in their areas.
During the summer, the Tamil Canadian Congress was a huge help to the Canadian Blood Services, Smith says. The group gathered people to go to their local clinics and pledged to collect 5,000 units of blood in one year, starting on July 1, 2008.
The group’s support was especially evident at a new clinic held recently at a Malvern public school, Smith said.
“It was a first-time clinic and they basically filled the clinic for me,” Smith said.
That one nearly reached its goal of 65 units of blood.
“That’s amazing for a first time clinic and I know without their support it wouldn’t have come in that easily.”
Started in 1998, the Malvern Town Centre clinic also did quite well despite a brief problem with the computer server in the morning.
Especially busy in the late afternoon, people crowded the refreshment table to talk and share stories with fellow donors while others waited by the beds to donate.
This clinic was not sponsored by a local community group, making the turnout even more impressive.
The Malvern clinic helps supply 58 hospitals in the GTA and surrounding area, including Scarborough General Hospital and Rouge Valley Centenary.