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Conexión con la comunidad: Red Cross and Nuestras Raíces Partner for Community Blood Drive

By: Leslie Czernik, Northwest Region Board Member

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At the end of April 2023, the months-long planning and preparation for a community blood drive in Spokane, WA, was coming to fruition. This blood drive would be both familiar and new for the Red Cross as it was the first one held in partnership with Nuestras Raíces Centro Comunitario, formerly the Hispanic Business Professionals Association. This partnership developed from the desire of Nuestra Raíces Executive Director Fernanda Mazcot to involve the Hispanic/Latino community of Spokane in blood donation.

“I donate blood. I see how important it is to do so, especially with my son. He had some major surgeries when he was really young, so he had blood transfusions. Ever since, I’ve been a big advocate about donating blood and how that saves lives,” shared Mazcot.

Back in October 2022, Mazcot met with Ryan Rodin, executive director of the American Red Cross Greater Inland Northwest Chapter at the time, to see how the two groups could increase awareness about the importance of blood donations and engage members of the community to participate in a drive. Their key to reaching people – conversations.

“We started tabling at Hispanic/Latino businesses to start having the conversations. There were definitely a lot of people curious, not quite ready to donate, but very curious,” said Mazcot.

These initial conversations provided opportunities to share information about who is eligible to donate, where donated blood goes, and the benefits of working with the Red Cross for blood collection.

A little bit of education can go a long way, and it can incorporate some fun as well! Li Velasco, program manager for Latinos Unidos en Acción y Alianza (LUNAA) at Nuestras Raíces, coordinated the blood drive with the help of Audrey Thompson, account manager for Red Cross Blood Services, and the student fellows of the LUNAA program. Rather than just hold a blood drive where individuals donate and then leave, Velasco and the fellows wanted to incorporate cultural aspects that would make it more of an event for families. The team planned activities for kids, music, games, and food for participants.

“Because we are a community, we bring our whole family,” said Velasco. “Whoever donates blood can, if they want, take a bag that is full of Hispanic foods like sopapilla and salsa that we find common for us but might not find common for others.”

With one successful blood drive completed, Mazcot and teams at the Red Cross are just getting started in this partnership together.

“We do want to have this at our "Día de los Muertos" event which is at the end of October. We’re establishing a community center for the Hispanic/Latino population here in Spokane so we’re hoping to have a blood drive there so that folks already know who we are and where we’re at. With the second and the third and the fourth blood drive, it’s just going to get bigger and stronger,” said Mazcot.

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